Instead of asking for volunteers at the gate to leave overbooked flights, Delta Air Lines now is enabling travelers to bid on the opportunity much earlier in the process.
When Delta realizes that a domestic flight may be overbooked, it prompts passengers who check-in online or at airport kiosks if they would be willing to take a different flight and how much is the minimum they would accept in travel vouchers to accept the option.
Delta outlined the new procedure on its blog.
The passengers' bids are not binding, and they can change their minds at the gate when they speak with Delta gate agents.
The gate agents receive the bids electronically, view which flights they can rebook passengers on and discuss the options with the passengers at the gate in the event the flight is overbooked.
The airline looks to rebook passengers who made the lowest bids first.
Delta says the main driver for the new procedure is that it makes gate operations more efficient, enabling the airline to board passengers faster without the disruption of calling for volunteers to leave the flight just before departure.
There also may be a cost benefit to the airline, if Delta can reaccommodate passengers on overbooked flights by handing out travel vouchers of lesser dollar value than under the prior system.
It is too early to tell how the new system will work out from a cost perspective, an airline spokesperson says.
The spokesperson says the passenger reaction to date has been mixed, with the spokesperson attributing any negative reaction to skepticism about a new procedure.
Another possible reason might be that passengers fear that they would be compensated less for exiting overbooked flights than they might have under the prior rules.
Employee reaction has been positive, the spokesperson says.