Man turns down $10K to give up airplane seat

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CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Ten-thousand dollars to miss an airline flight? That’s what some passengers flying with Delta Air Lines out of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford International Airport say they were offered earlier this week.

“I think the airlines are doing everything they can to make it a good experience. But $10,000 is a lot,” said passenger Jason Aten.

Aten and his family are currently enjoying their Alaskan adventure. But just getting there was also an adventure. It started when he and his family were sitting on the tarmac at the Ford Airport Monday, set to take off for their connecting fight in Minneapolis.

“They came on the PA system and said that they were looking for volunteers and that they were willing to pay $10,000, which everyone assumed they’d heard it wrong,” said Aten.

Not a travel voucher — $10,000 on a Visa gift card or right into your wallet if you had Apple Pay.

It may be easy to assume Aten took the money and got off the plane. But it wasn’t that easy for the Inc. Magazine tech writer, who wrote about the experience in a recent column.

Four adults and four children were in their traveling party.

“I know $10,000 seems like a lot of money, but you have to realize that it doesn’t really sink in that this is really what they were offering and second of all, try to do the math and how they’re going to get everybody to (their destination),” said Aten.   

“I’ve taken ‘bumps,’ as they call it, plenty of times. But usually, that’s for a couple of hundred dollars, right?“ Aten said.

Some travel agents say they haven’t heard of an offer that large either, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Airline delays have become common.

Experts say the pandemic basically shut down the airline industry. Some carriers ended up cutting staff, including pilots, by offering early retirement.

Now that the public is flying again, there just isn’t enough staff to keep up with demand. But the airlines also want to keep customers happy. So big incentives to make room on planes have become more common.

“I know the airlines canceled 2,500 flights over the weekend and they were probably so backed up trying to get people where they’re going so they had to take some extraordinary measures to try to get everybody where they were going,” said Aten.

Travel experts have these tips to avoid delays: First, get to the airport at least two hours before your flight is scheduled to take off. Even if the delay is announced online, get to the airport anyway. Many delays are based on staff availability, but as soon as a pilot walks through the door, they’re taking off.

Another tip: Try to schedule the first flight of the day. You may have to get to the airport before the sun comes up, but the earlier the flight, the less likely it will be delayed. Of course, by doing so, you might miss the chance at a $10,000 windfall.

Does Aten have second thoughts about turning it down now?

“Don’t ask my wife that question,” Aten said with a laugh.



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