Your Chances of Getting Bumped (and Dating Supermodels)

Yes, I will get to the part about the supermodels shortly, but first, let's talk flying -- and specifically, your odds of getting bumped from a plane.

In a word, the chances of this happening are "slim." But it varies from airline to airline, and thanks to a wonderful Web site called "Book of Odds" I can tell you which carriers are the best and worst when it comes to bumping, based on 2008 data.

You know what bumping is: that ugly event that occasionally occurs when your airline oversells its seats to avoid the no-shows. Usually, gate agents start out asking for volunteers who get a sweetener such as a $100 voucher (or more) for future travel; if that doesn't work, the bumping becomes "involuntary." In other words, you're the poor sap who gets kicked off the flight.

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It is rare, though -- the chances it'll happen to you involuntarily are about 1 in 10,040 (though the chances of getting bumped when you combine voluntarily and involuntarily drop to 1 in 872). Still, it pays to know your rights: involuntary bumpees now get paid as much as $800 for the inconvenience.

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But it is an inconvenience, so you might want to think twice when making reservations for flights operated by Comair, Pinnacle and Atlantic Southeast -- those airlines offer you the best chance of being involuntarily bumped, according to the Book of Odds. The airlines least likely to bump against your will? JetBlue, Hawaiian and AirTran. Again, this is based on the 2008 data. Perhaps some have improved and some have slacked off since then.

Now let's turn to lost luggage: ever wonder where it goes? Some of it no doubt disappears down the same black hole that dryer socks gravitate to, but the good news is, 98 percent of all lost luggage is eventually returned to its owners.

Oddly enough, some passengers can't be bothered with their once-lost luggage; when airlines attempt reunification, these passengers essentially say, thanks but no thanks. One carrier's representative told me in such cases they sell these "leftover" bags to a vendor, who may in turn sell them to an unusual store called the "Unclaimed Baggage Center" of Scottsboro, Ala.

I'm sure the center takes in its share of dirty laundry, but the bags sometimes contain the occasional gem, and I mean that literally: among the items unclaimed baggage employees have found were a 40-carat emerald as well as a full suit of armor (no, I can't picture stuffing armor in my suitcase, either).

What are your chances you'll lose your bag? According to U.S. Department of Transportation figures, 1 in 205.6 passengers filed "mishandled baggage" reports with U.S. airlines in 2008. But, you have to remember, that was the year of new baggage fees; that eventually prompted more passengers to switch to carry-ons, with the result that lost bag statistics have been improving.

Now, how about the odds of your flight being delayed? It's a concern, what with winter on its way, and December is generally the worst month for delayed flights. The Book of Odds says 1 in 3.23 flights are typically delayed in December, probably because of the double whammy of bad weather and holiday-packed planes.

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