Downgraded United Passengers Hit The Jackpot With $100,000 Compensation

United Airlines passengers hit the jackpot this Saturday when the airline gave out $100,000 in compensation for being downgraded. The flight between Newark and Honolulu was short on business class seats, and as such 10 passengers were asked to take premium economy seats instead. Each received a cool $10,000 for their troubles.

United Airlines Newark
The United Airlines flight from Newark swapped out a 777 for a 767. Photo: Getty

What happened?

According to View From The Wing, a United Airlines flight, number 363, was due to travel from Newark to Honolulu this Saturday, and was slated to be operated by a Boeing 777. However, at the last minute, the airline switched out the 777 for a Boeing 767-300. This meant there were fewer business class seats on board.

ua363
The 10+ hour flight was operated by a Boeing 767. Photo: FlightRadar24

As such, United looked for 10 volunteers willing to downgrade their seats. However, it wasn’t a full downgrade to economy, as this aircraft offered a ‘Premium Plus’ cabin option. While United wasn’t actively selling any premium economy seats on the route, the mid-level seats were on board and waiting for the willing volunteers.

Not only was United willing to seat its displaced passengers in premium economy for the flight, seats which come with footrests and extra legroom, it was also willing to pay compensation too. Compensation worth $100,000 between the ten passengers!

This meant each willing passenger had an OK-ish seat for the 10+ hour flight to Honolulu AND managed to bank a cool $10,000 in compensation. I think we can all agree, we’d have been at the front of the queue for this offer!

United paid $100,000

Often when volunteers are sought for downgrades, airlines will start a ‘bidding’ process to encourage people to swap. They may start at $2,000, but by the time they’ve found their full quota of volunteers, the ‘bid’ may have risen by several thousand, in this case to $10,000.

For the passengers willing to swap, it appears United matched the bid of the last passenger. This is unusual in itself, although it’s not the first time United has given out a huge sum in flight compensation. In March 2018, United allocated one lucky passenger $10,000 to get bumped from their flight, but that was only one person.


American Airlines went one better in January 2018, when it allegedly gave out as much as $250,000 in travel credit for a single flight, as reported on View From The Wing. However, this was divided between in excess of 50 passengers, with most receiving around $5,000 each.

The problem with flight credit

The $100,000 given out on flight UA363 was, of course, not cash or check. Instead, this was dished out in flight credit vouchers for future use. If you’re a frequent flier, that’s not an issue as you’ll undoubtedly be able to use up most or even all of that on future flights.

However, for some of these holidaymakers traveling to Hawaii, $10,000 in flight credit is going to be tricky to use up. United’s policy states that flights must be booked within a year of being issued the credit, although it’s unclear whether the flights have to also be taken within that time period.

United Premium Plus
Although not business class, the Premium Plus seats look to be a decent place to spend 10 hours. Photo: United Airlines

Although Simple Flying has not seen these specific travel vouchers, previous recipients have said that no name changes are allowed under United rules. This means that the specific person has to use up $10k of flights within 12 months, and can’t, therefore, use it towards a family holiday or something similar.

Our guess is a whole lot of this $100,000 will never be claimed, and as such United will not be left out of pocket. What do you think? What’s the most you’ve been paid to downgrade or get bumped from a flight? Tell us in the comments.

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