Your flight is booked and you have the perfect seats (unless Delta changes them and does not tell you, clearly). You are packed, hotel all set (I hope on points) and suddenly the phone rings – and it is Delta.
Ruh roh, what is wrong now!?
You see, Delta has a habit of selling more seats on a jet than the number they can fit inside the metal frame. Why? Because they know that on any given day and any given flight that some will simply not make the flight for whatever reasons. Thus the smart thing to do is oversell many flights that they “know” this will happen to. But what if everyone shows up? What then? The extra folks cannot sit on the wing like I have illustrated above.
Well in a really dire situation, say where Delta has both oversold the flight AND the equipment planned for that flight is downgraded, they may have to get a LOT of folks off the flight. Then Delta may start proactively calling out to folks to see if they would be willing to make a change for some amount of Delta e-credits or Delta dollars good for another flight.
When such a call comes to you the instant reaction tends to be – GREAT – and the offer of an instant voucher is hard to say no to. But if it is only $100 or $200 you may want to bargain for more. This will tell you a number of things, like how desperate they really are to get folks off of the flight. Also keep in mind that as of last month they are now willing to go substantially higher at the gate.
Next, during the negotiations if they are not willing to pay you more, maybe say you will take their lower offer but ONLY if they put you in 1st class on the flight they are moving you to. They don’t like to do this but they can (or at lease a supervisor can). I would push for this hard if they are only offering a tiny voucher.
The next big thing to consider is just when they are going to get you to your destination. If it is sooner than planned this may or may not be good for you. If it is much later, or maybe even an overnight, I would look at a larger rather than smaller payout.
Speaking of an overnight your chance is almost zero that over the phone reps will authorize a hotel or food voucher (I don’t think they can, actually) so that should also go into your negotiation of the phone bump offer.
Then there is the big issue that is really worth considering. Almost anyone I have talked to who got a Delta bump call, who said NO, found the flight still VERY oversold at the gate. Some took the offer at the gate as it was substantially higher than what was offered over the phone. If scoring a large bump voucher is your goal you may want to sit tight and plan to get to the gate really early and be the first one in line to offer up your seat (and to bid as high as you can if you are offered the shot when you check-in).
Bottom line, much as a bird in hand maybe be worth more than 2 birds in the bush, a bump voucher over the phone may be nice to lock in but likely will be much less than one at the gate! Have you ever had a bump phone call offer from Delta? Let us know in the comments below how it worked out for you. – René