Taking the bump: think it through


We had seats on an overbooked flight.

Would we take a bump?  Well, we might.

It depends on the price.

But the agent was nice,

And we got home just before night.

SYNOPSIS:  I’m a family physician from Sioux City, Iowa.  In 2010, I danced back from the brink of burnout, and, honoring a 1-year non-compete clause, worked in out-of-the-way places from New Zealand to Barrow, Alaska.  Now I work part-time at a Community Health Center, meaning that I average 54 hours a week.  I just got back from a two-week working vacation in Petersburg, Alaska, and an educational convention in San Diego.

I recently took a non-credit course in Game Theory; it had major overlaps with chaos theory and economics, and a few in physics.  If I can summarize 18 hours of lectures in a one sentence: think things through.

On our way back from San Diego, the airline announced an overbooking situation and offered to pay people to rebook their flights at a later time.  Usually I don’t have that kind of flexibility, but on this occasion we had arranged travel on a Saturday, and I didn’t have clinical duties till Monday.  For the first time, ever, I could afford to take the bump.

And I could apply my new-found game theory skills.

Most other offers of cash-for-getting-bumped have come while travelling on a Sunday and have gone begging at $400 a head.  In this case,.  I decided that probably a lot of other people had flexibility and would be more willing to take the money, so that the chance of getting a large sum would go down

I hit the ticket counter before anyone else, and offered up my seat in the spirit of cooperation and greed, to the tune of $200 a head, paltry in comparison to past offers.

While I stood there, another pair of passengers came to vie for the prize.

The agent booked us on a later flight going through Phoenix rather than Houston, avoiding some bad weather, cutting the total flight time by an hour, shaving another hour off a layover, thus getting us into Omaha 2 hours ahead of schedule.

I declared, to the agent, the classic win-win situation.

Yet we still boarded the plane with disappointment in our hearts that our original itinerary would be followed.

Five minutes before scheduled take-off the flight attendant had us leave the plane; something to do with a loose seat bolt elsewhere.  We strode across the airport to a different airline’s gate, and in a few hours touched down in Omaha, richer and sooner than expected.

Just one more example of being pleased to not get our first choice.

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