Airlines around the world are canceling numerous flights due to a lack of staff. The cancellations and the simultaneous overbooking sometimes lead to absurd scenes at the airports – and to highly attractive awards for passengers who are not in a hurry.

Dense crowds at check-in, baggage drop-off and security control, canceled flights and long waits for baggage: After the workforce was reduced during the pandemic, the increase in air traffic is causing frustrating and sometimes absurd scenes at airports. In the USA, this culminated in an extreme offer: passengers on a domestic flight were offered $10,000 if they gave up their seat.

This was reported by two passengers who were sitting at the gate of the flight from Michigan to Minnesota. Journalist Jason Aten told Inc. first his own experience with, later the story was confirmed at “Fortune” by another fellow traveler named Todd McCrumb. According to the two witnesses, the airline Delta had overbooked the almost four-hour flight on Thursday by eight passengers. And tried to persuade those waiting to stay with ever larger sums of money.

Cash for the seat

The desperation of the crew was therefore great. “If you have Apple Pay, you get the money immediately,” according to Aten, a stewardess tried to make the offer more palatable. But the passengers initially remained strong. Although the flight was quite short by US standards – the alternative would be a 700-kilometer drive – not a single passenger bit the original offer of $5,000 according to the two witnesses. As boarding began, so did the stay premium: Delta raised it to $7,500. When most of the passengers were on board, the final raise came: $10,000 in cash was offered to anyone who still vacated their seat.

Of course, Aten and McGrumb had also considered the offer. Out of consideration for his wife, McGrumb finally decided against it. “My wife has health problems and cannot travel alone,” he told Fortune. “But she didn’t want to get out either because she couldn’t wait to get home because of the problems.” That’s why they stayed on board.

Hard decision

In hindsight, Aten would have preferred to take the money, he admits. “We didn’t jump into it originally because we didn’t know how many places were involved,” he says. Because: His travel group consisted of exactly eight participants. “Had we known that they were looking for eight people, we would have dropped out. But by the time that became known, four or five others had already accepted the offer.” His wife was not very enthusiastic that he had given up the money, he confessed in his article.

Delta declined to confirm the offer when asked by Fortune. “Being able to offer compensation allows our employees to get the planes off on time,” a spokesman said in a general explanation of what is very common practice in the industry. Like many others, the airline is struggling with flight cancellations. CEO Ed Bastian only apologized in an email to the company’s frequent flyers for the inconvenience caused by cancellations and delays.

Sources: Inc., Fortune