Survey shares advice from travel advisors on dealing with bumping from oversold flights

A new survey by global luxury travel agency network Virtuoso imparts advice from professional travel advisors on how to cope with airline disruptions, including the much reported-on bumping situation that occurred on board United Flight 3411 in April. Virtuoso advisors recommend a multifaceted approach to protecting passengers from being bumped involuntarily, and insights on what to do if passengers unexpectedly find themselves in that situation.

Respondents to the newest Virtuoso Flash Survey reveal their top tips for guarding against bumping:

  • 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 travelling with small children as well.

Virtuoso’s travel advisors say that bumping passengers against their will rarely happens, and only 30 per cent 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:

  • 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 traveller

“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 per centage of them have ever been involuntarily bumped,” says Terrie Hansen, senior vice president of Marketing for Virtuoso. “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. One of the key reasons we recommend booking with a professional travel advisor is the consumer advocacy they provide. With travel it’s not a matter of if something will go wrong, it’s when – there are simply too many variables that are beyond anyone’s control. Having an advocate with a vested interest in the success of the trip is invaluable. It might not prevent the situation from happening, but it’s certainly reassuring to know here’s a knowledgeable and well-connected expert to call and help fix it.”

While 28 per cent 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

For more information on Virtuoso, including connecting with a professional travel advisor, please visit

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