This New Solution for Booking Flights Might Mean Some Extra Cash for You

Author: David McMillin       

Remember the passenger-dragged-down-the-aisle publicity nightmare for United earlier this year? The airline naturally wants to avoid similar issues in the future, and it’s working on a new plan that could simplify rearranging passengers while creating some extra profit potential. According to a recent article in Bloomberg, United is partnering with an aviation technology startup called Volantio to launch a system that will monitor supply and demand on flights and automatically send messages to passengers with seats on upcoming flights that can be resold at a higher price.

For example, let’s say you booked a $200 ticket for a flight from Chicago to Dallas two months ago. The flight is in four days, and it’s nearly sold out. United would love to resell your seat for $400 — or more, if passengers are willing to shell out the cash — so the airline will send a marketing message to ask if your travel plans are flexible. However, the airline isn’t the only one who wins. If you’re willing to rebook, you’ll be eligible for a voucher of up to $250.

“Let’s say the five o’clock flight from Chicago to Boston normally sells 12 seats in the three days before it departs,” Dave Bartels, vice president for pricing and revenue management at United, told Bloomberg. “If I see that that flight is full a week ahead, I’ll be pretty confident that I can resell any seats that I open up based on my seasonalized historical patterns.”

From a PR perspective, it’s clearly a better alternative to another viral video of a passenger who refused to give up a seat, but the system does limit the at-the-gate payouts for overbooked passengers. In those last-minute situations, airlines are willing to cough up a premium price — much more than $250 — for passengers’ on-the-spot flexibility. Still, this seems like a natural solution to a problem that has plagued the air-travel experience for years. United isn’t the only airline excited about the potential to increase revenue and customer satisfaction, either. Alaska Airlines and Qantas are both gearing up to work with Volantio later this year. So be on the lookout for emails from your airlines about your upcoming flights — they may be making you an offer that not only rewards your flexibility but gives you some extra time to consider your options.

Looking for more ways to make flying better? Check out “3 Mobile Apps to Improve Your Air-Travel Experience.”

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