Virtuoso: Top Tips to Protect Passengers From Overbooked Flights

Airplane cabin with passengers
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What should you do if one of your clients is bumped from an overbooked flight? Virtuoso has released a new survey of advice from its network of luxury travel advisors on how to cope with airline disruptions, including bumpings like those that caused a PR crisis for United Airlines in April.

Virtuoso said that the advisors it surveyed recommend a multifaceted approach to protecting passengers from being bumped involuntarily. Here are some top insights:

  • Establish status with a specific airline and fly it or within its alliance partners whenever possible
  • Reserve seat assignments as soon as the flight is booked
  • Check in online 24 hours before the flight to reconfirm seats
  • Avoid sitting in the very front or back rows of Economy Class as these seats may be displaced in the event of an equipment downsize on domestic U.S. flights. The last row is often reserved for families traveling with small children as well.

Virtuoso’s travel advisors say that bumping passengers against their will rarely happens, and only 30 percent of respondents said it had happened to their clients. However, should passengers find themselves in this situation, the network’s expert advisors suggest the following:


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  • Insist the airline rebook the next available flight, even on another airline
  • Comply with the request, but politely ask for more compensation than what the airline is offering
  • Contact their travel advisor for assistance
  • Ask for a credit card-issued gift card instead of an airline voucher, especially if not a frequent traveler

“It’s unfortunate that we’re seeing a rash of these stories lately because our findings show that for all the tens of thousands of passengers who fly daily, only a tiny percentage of them have ever been involuntarily bumped,” said Terrie Hansen, senior vice president of marketing for Virtuoso, in a written release. “When an incident does occur, it captures enormous public attention because with any travel mishap, the viewing public immediately imagines ‘this could happen to me, too’ and it’s an unsettling feeling.”

While 28 percent of respondents said that their clients have asked them to book other carriers as a direct result of the United Airlines incident, the majority have not. Reasons cited for why people will not move away from any particular airline in the wake of a publicized situation include:

  • Certain airlines dominate specific routes and airports, leaving clients to feel like they’re without other viable options
  • The airline’s schedule best suits their travel plans
  • Clients have status on the airline or its partner airlines, and do not wish to establish loyalty with another carrier or alliance
  • Clients understand involuntary passenger bumping is not limited to any one airline


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