United Airlines’ public image has plummeted over the past few months, a decline that began in April when the company forcibly removed a passenger from a flight due to what some considered a form of overbooking.
Now the company is trying to make oversold flights less of a problem. According to Bloomberg, United is set to unveil a system whereby the airline would offer rewards to passengers who are willing to give up their seat on an overbooked flight days in advance.
With United’s new “Flex-Schedule Program,” created in partnership with startup Volantio, the airline will send e-mails to passengers with a header such as “Are You Flexible with Your Travels to Los Angeles?” ahead of their flight. If the passenger responds yes, then the traveler could be rebooked within 24 hours of responding for a different flight on the same day and via the same airports. In return, United will offer the passenger a $250 travel voucher.
United and other airlines have long offered cash or frequent filer miles to passengers on board overbooked airplanes who are willing to surrender their seat. A similar offer was made on board an April United flight, but nobody took the deal. That led to Dr. David Dao being dragged off the plane after he was randomly selected to be bumped by a computer system.