Booked and Rooked

Richard Ramis, AYS Dispatch, Inc.

In one fell swoop, admittedly by accident, I believe I have solved the crime of the century. The ground transportation industry collectively has been victimized by this but were probably not aware.

It started on a Tuesday night with a simple airport cancellation. Party calls from Miami to say their flight to Boston was cancelled and they proceed to give me their new next day morning arrival.

When I reach the driver to advise he said, “These people are really messed up.” I ask him why and he stated that they were originally due in Tuesday afternoon, changed to late Tuesday night, and now Wednesday morning.

None of this info should raise any flags. It is very common especially now since our air traffic control system is a bit unstable.

I have had past issues where I may have a flight arrival with numerous parties for multiple companies and one will call to say they must reschedule. Typically, it is because they had a connecting flight that was late or canceled or they simply missed the flight.

I never really investigated any cancels because people, specifically business travelers, always change midstream. This time, however, a leisure traveling couple doing a simple domestic flight with no weather challenges really piqued my curiosity. Why three flights in 24 hours?

Ray Charles can see we have a problem here. I check the flight and it departed and will land on time. I think I figured it out, I believe we are dealing with the notorious “Mother Bumpers”. Purposeful bumpers are a new breed I have heard whispers about. However, this time I have a secret weapon.

One of our clients provides transportation for that airline’s crews and I check the schedule, we are picking up that crew and there I was, prepared to violate the privacy clause I once swore an oath to protect.

It was very simple, the crew would call to say they were ready to deplane. We would give them the chauffeur’s name and description of car. Then, the big reveal: “Captain, I am curious, were any people bumped off your flight”.

He chuckled and said, “Yes, five passengers.” He shoots, he scores !!! No possible way I am wrong on this. They played the system. They won, we lost. I start doing some research and was shocked with what I found.

There are all sorts of articles and guides on how to get bumped, how you can actually demand cash instead of gift cards or vouchers, and which airlines pay the most and which pay the least.

It also advises the traveler on the best times to get bumped and how to negotiate and leverage your payoff to include cab fare and hotels. Quite a racket.

As it turns out there are also many travelers, probably 95%, that do not want to be delayed, bumped, or inconvenienced. But it happens. Airlines today must gently overbook to insure they get the opportunity to fill seats. Occasionally it backfires but that is the nature of the business.

Although new protection laws give the ticket-holder numerous rights and rewards, the one thing they are not protected from is delays and flight cancellations. No pay, no way. That also explains why flight cancellations are on the increase.

In reality, you can’t bill a client for “changing” their arrival time with ample notice, so they do in fact have an advantage over the ground transportation industry presently.

However, we will be monitoring the situation.

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