After Newark-Tel Aviv Mechanical Issue Forces Aircraft Downgauge, United Pays Out About $75,000 To 30 Passengers Volunteering To Get Bumped

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Miki Spitzer writes to DansDeals that he was booked on United flight 90 from Newark to Tel Aviv last night and shared his experience of what happened.

DansDeals reached out to United this morning for comment and this post will be updated if the airline responds.

Per Miki, as passengers were ready to begin boarding, gate agents working the flight announced that there were mechanical issues with their Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. After a lengthy delay, an announcement was made that a replacement plane would be needed and was located, but it would be a 787-9 Dreamliner.

The 787-9 has 48 business class seats, 4 more than the 787-10. It has 21 premium economy seats, the same as the 787-10. However, it only has 39 economy plus seats, 15 less than the 787-10. And it only has 149 economy (minus?) seats, a whopping 50 less than the 787-10.

The gate agent announced they would need about 30 passengers to volunteer to fly the next day, in exchange for a $1,000 flight voucher. After not getting any bites, the agent announced that passengers would be involuntarily bumped off the flight if nobody volunteered as tribute. Federal law requires a cash payment of 400% of the one-way fare, up to $1,550 cash, for involuntary bumps.

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed when that threat didn’t produce any volunteers. The gate agent increased to compensation to $2,500 in United flight vouchers and Miki, along with several dozen other passengers lined up to accept that offer. Assuming that 30 was the final number of passengers needed, that would mean United issued some $75,000 in flight credits to those volunteers!

The Electronic Travel Certificate (ETC) vouchers were printed on the spot and given to each volunteer:

(Pro tip: These ETC vouchers can be used an unlimited number of times by anyone until the funds are exhausted and actually expire 30 days after the printed expiration date. There are also ways to extend them further. You can read more about ETCs in this post and in this post).

They were also given several meal vouchers (here’s how to save those for future use), transportation and hotel vouchers, and offered their choice of United flight 84 or 90 today.

Miki tried to get an upgrade as well, which is something I’ve been able to negotiate for volunteering for a bump, but he was turned down for that. But hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!

The flight wound up taking off at 2:26am, and arrived 3 hours late into Tel Aviv today, at 7:20pm local time.

Why didn’t United just cancel the flight? That would also have disrupted passengers flying home from Tel Aviv. But it also would have been far more costly due to Israel’s aviation services law. If passengers to or from Israel arrive at their destination more than 8 hours late, the airline must pay out 1,440 shekels ($392) for flights up to 2K kilometers, 2,310 shekels ($629) for flights up to 4.5K kilometers, or 3,460 shekels ($942) for flights more than 4.5K kilometers. Those numbers are adjusted annually for inflation.

As of last year at least, United also offered the option of taking a $1,200 travel voucher or 60K miles instead of the cash compensation for the long-haul flight.

United’s 787-10 holds 318 passengers and the 787-9 holds 257 passengers. If we assume that the flight was booked to 287 passengers each way (the 787-9 capacity plus 30), that would mean paying out some $540,708 in cash compensation.

Opting to pay out some $75,000 in flight credits is a bargain compared to that!

If only the US kept airlines honest like that in case of lengthy delays…

I’m just impressed that the flight crew didn’t time out.

Were you bumped off United flight 90 last night?

HT: yandmk and @mikispitzer

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46 Comments On "After Newark-Tel Aviv Mechanical Issue Forces Aircraft Downgauge, United Pays Out About $75,000 To 30 Passengers Volunteering To Get Bumped"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

Nighthawk700

I’ve never been in this type of situation. If you take the first offer ($1,000), then later they bump it up to $2,500, are you out of luck? E.g. should I wait and see when critical mass starts going up to accept the offer (assuming my schedule is flexible)?

BC

IME everyone who volunteers got the highest price. I’ve asked GAs when volunteering and they said that even if I accept $500 but the highest offer is $1000, I’ll get the highest offer.

Nachi

I have been on this UA90 flight in the past. One that occasion we took off, flew 2 hours out and then flew back due to “mechanical issue”. Everyone was irritated and we were all moved to the next night and went out 30 minutes prior to the regularly scheduled flight

Memere613

Wow

Adam

I wonder why they cancelled flight 91 today instead of just flying the 787-9 back to Newark?

AH

United switch a EWR-LHR 767 to a 757, bumped most business class passen to economy
Still waiting for refund from AC……. waiting since may

Eli

dan maybe take down that picture of the voucher anyone could use it.

Chulent

I was on 91 tonight that was cancelled, booked for tomorrow night . What will they reimburse ?

Abe

After not getting any bites, the agent announced that passengers would be involuntarily bumped off the flight if nobody volunteered as tribute. Federal law requires a cash payment of 400% of the one-way fare, up to $1,550 cash, for involuntary bumps.

Why didn’t they actually exercise this threat, which would have bean much cheaper or them?

Shmueli

The issue with Israel Aviation Service law is that there is no way to enforce it.

If the airline denies your claim, ur out of luck

Avi

I was on a United flight with a layover that did not land in time for the connecting flight to TEL Aviv sure to weather conditions and I was told that there were no more flights to TEL Aviv that week. We ended up sitting around for hours until eventually we got rebooked with another long stop over. Am I entitled to that compensation that you mentioned?

EBG

Like always, great reporting.

ross

I’m considering booking on United for my son to yeshiva. But every other post I think, For sure! and then, No way! and it keeps going back and forth. Has United generally been reliable?

DD fan

You write that united came out cheaper this way vs. canceling the flight, but there is a also a customer satisfaction element where here there are 30 very happy customers plus the remaining 250 are happy, vs canceling a flight and you have 300 unhappy customers.

Oh or is that something United doesn’t even take into consideration

YR

Is the $1,200 travel voucher considered a Electronic travel certificate or a future flight credit?

UncleMo

Would be nice if there was something like the Israeli law here in the USA. Last week (7/2), I had two daughters flying UA EWR-DTW. Flight was delayed and ultimately cancelled. Blamed on weather related delays on incoming aircraft. Huge mess trying to figure things out. Decided to rebook PHL-DTW via ORD the next morning. One daughter was going to continue on to DTW, the next get off in ORD.

Woke up early, drove almost 2 1/2 hrs to PHL. When I was 25 minutes from home! got a message it’s delayed! This time they claimed an issue with the brakes. The flight just kept getting delayed until finally cancelled. Literally 24 hours of not a stitch of anything done other than dealing with this mess. All I got was lousy food vouchers! Any point calling CS for refund?

Daniel

If the flight was canceled and you chose not to be rebooked further, you are entitled to a refund to original method of payment. For the second cancellation, you are also entitled to a hotel room if the delay from that was overnight.

UncleMo

I chose to rebook. It’s just amazing that they get away with murder with seemingly no consequences. They actually provided an electronic voucher for a hotel (for the first night). Can that be used at a later time though? It was for one of a few (fairly lousy) hotels in the PHL area and I thought can only be used that night.

Tuna beigel

Why couldn’t they force them off and pay only $1550? Why did they continue making higher offers to get volunteers?

Happy

My flight UA91 was cancelled last March 2023 right before takeoff at 11pm and we’re all placed on a flight the next day….we immediately got options for $200 ETC…..(no vouchers for hotel or food). I fought via email for a few months and wound up getting the original $200 ETC plus $1200 ETC plus a check for $266 for hotel and food.

Ariel

Related topic, but domestic. FLL-JFK AA flight was delayed prior to boarding for 6 hours (2 hours, gate change, then 2 hour delay and another 2 hr delay) then they canceled the flight. No rebook option was available for 2 days, no meal or hotel voucher were given since it was “due to weather”, despite other airlines taking off without issue. We overheard the crew – It was actually a mechanical issue but they denied that. We called c/s and were rebooked for next day on JetBlue. We asked they phone agent to invoke a code (forgot what it was called) to transfer the ticket to another non partner airline, which they did. Had to stay at area hotel and got no compensation at all. Is this worthy of compensation?

Rachel Blass

I was on the flight. I originated from Miami and connected to flight 90.
I am a 1K frequent flyer. Within 15 minutes of plane change I received an email from united telling me of a seat change for my business class ticket keeping the original window seat request. I was the exception. There was confusion at the gate with agents and Contradicting announcements. To their credit they brought out plenty of free snacks and bottled water. They had all the kosher food requests and my luggage arrived.
I wonder if they will repeat the status offer to keep status for another year due to not flying the TLV route for more than six months.

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