United Innovates a Win-Win for Over-Sold Flights

airport over bookings

Problem: Air traveler anger and airline embarrassment over mishandled bumps on overbooked flights.

Solution: Technology that manages buyouts on flights nearing sell-out up to five days in advance.

United Airlines, which has taken a public-relations beating this year over several incidents, including overbooking, is testing a Flex Schedule Program invented by Volantio, an Atlanta-based tech startup.

With this technology, travelers with flexibility can be awarded travel vouchers in the comfort of their own homes, to be used on future flights. The airline can upsell their seats to last-minute travelers or even business-class travelers at a much higher profit.

The technology allows United to pinpoint sold-out flights that are most likely to have significant last-minute demand, where Flex Scheduling can enhance revenue the most. Then, travelers who have booked on the airline’s website and opted to receive marketing emails can be asked to switch to a different flight in exchange for a $250 travel voucher. The substitute flight will be to the same destination on the same day.

A click of the mouse and the deed is done.

More airlines will partner with Volantio in the coming months, according to the Chicago Tribune. These include Australia-based Tiger Airways, Alaska Air and Qantas. Delta has already been offering auction-style bids for travelers to change flights 24 hours or less before departure.

Tech companies say they invent stuff to make the world a better place, and this time it might be true. The only loser in this scenario may be the poor people who think they might be offered much more money—as much as much as $1,350—to be bumped at the gate.