United Airlines considers reselling seats to travelers who will pay more

United Airlines is considering a program that pays passengers to give up their booked seats so that the carrier can resell them for a higher price to other fliers.

The Chicago-based carrier is talking with Volantio, an Atlanta-based revenue optimizing company that is looking to work on similar projects with Alaska Airlines, Qantas and Tiger Airways, an Australia-based low-cost carrier.

United Airlines representatives say the carrier has been weighing the money-making idea, to be called the Flex-Schedule Program, since the beginning of the year. They say it has nothing to do with the controversy that erupted in April when a passenger was injured while being dragged from an overbooked flight.

“We are always looking at new ways to innovate and improve the customer experience,” said United spokesman Jonathan Guerin, adding that the program would start with a small pilot effort.

Delta Air Lines already runs a similar program that lets passengers make a bid via a text message on how much they would accept to give up their seats on an overbooked flight. Delta accepts the lowest bids first until everyone has a seat.

The United program first would identify passengers who have flexible travel plans and have notified the airline that they are interested in hearing offers to give up their seats.

In the case of a full flight, United Airlines would contact those travelers days before the flight to offer them up to $250 to give up their seat. In addition to handing out cash, United Airlines would rebook those passengers on a flight later that same day.

Under the proposed program, United Airlines then would resell the seat to a flier who is willing to pay more than the original price, plus the cash incentive paid out by United Airlines.

There is no word from United about when the program may launch.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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