Hi the piranha,
I agree with you. I prefer to ask at the gate. We did get bumped in IAD with United a few months ago. Got two $400 vouchers, but found they are very hard to use. These vouchers cannot be combined. Furthermore, they have to be booked with the airline directly, so no Orbitz or Expedia, etc. Often, Expedia or Orbitz have cheaper fares than the airline since they sell a block to these discounters and the airline is left with the more expensive tickets as time goes on. To my thinking, they are almost not worth the hassle and tend to cost you more than you would have spent otherwise. Of course, if you get upgraded to business class and hotel for a flight to Europe the next day, that's a bump I happily would take.
I think j-s-2 makes a good point....it depends on day, time and your schedule.
If I am holding an outbound confirmed reservation, more than likely, I have no interest in being bumped, since I am likely traveling with a fixed schedule (i.e. business appointments.....even a leisure trip, probably involves confirmed arrangements). On the other hand, with an inbound business trip, I usually have more flexibility....that is to say, I'm flying home and whether I arrive at a somewhat later hour doesn't involve anything more than phone call home and a change of dining plans.
Why I like the Delta on-line bidding for bump program:
If I am connecting through ATL on a Friday afternoon headed for FLL, I can wager a huge sum, many of the other passengers on the flight will be cruise passengers. Additionally, I can safely assume there are other connecting flight through ATL that will be carrying even more cruise passengers headed for FLL. No way these people want to miss their FLL flight and take a chance of missing their cruise.
I'll gladly bid in $200 (not $100) for a future travel voucher with DL and use it for an upcoming biz trip, since I use Delta.com for my reservations and the voucher is EZ to apply on-line. If DL needs the seat, gives me the $200 voucher and puts me on the next FLL flight (first class seating is not required but appreciated).....I'm a happy camper....just means I change my dining reservations from 7:30 to 9:00 pm.
I can stay in the Delta Sky Club, have a glass of wine and do my 'after action' reports (even peruse Luxury Link travel auctions) on my computer while I am waiting for the next flight.....while avoiding the 'cattle call' at a departure gate.
Since I'm not looking for top dollar, a free hotel room and a meal voucher, the program is good for me and good for DL.
Other flyers, such as yourself, may have different objectives when considering the on-line bump option.
To put it in sport parlance, I don't try to hit a grand slam every time....'singles' are just fine and add up to a winning strategy for me over the course of the year.
Go DL and I hope AA adds the same option, since I use them for biz travel as well.
Also, they may look overbooked at that time but may not even need your seat in the end because there may be passengers who miss their connection. So I don't believe you find out until you're at the gate, whether your bid was the lowest, and you're the "winner". So you're still in the middle of the cattle call waiting to find out the results at the gate. This will give you even less time at the club before your flight if they don't need your seat. And if you're in the club when they call your name, they move on to the next best bidder when you're not sitting there to hear the results.
I don't like this system when the norm was often a $400 voucher. I usually have to get somewhere. I've also often seen people who rarely fly jump up for just a $100 voucher. For me, it's usually not worth it.
Have you ever been on a flight in Europe when this happens? The passenger compensation is much better.