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Getting “Bumped” on an Overbooked Flight is Not the Worse Thing in the World – It’s a FREE Ticket

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Here is my personal story and I give you an actual example of a $1200 transportation vouchers for travel on American Airlines that I earned simply giving up my seat on a full flight.

My wife and I have a timeshare in Cancun, Mexico and we travel there in January or February every year. Yes, it’s the busy season in Cancun and after one year being there at “Spring Break” we try to avoid the over booked hotel and condos and hordes of wild, excited young folks. However, the fact is the busy flights are what we want to look for in order to take advantage of our plan to have the airline give us free tickets.

This last February we had purchased our two tickets using frequent flyer miles that we had earned with our American Airlines Advantage CitiBank credit card. A free ticket we had earned just paying our bills with our credit card. We are going to spend the money anyway so why not pay with a credit card that we earn free airline tickets. We purchased our tickets in the fall and made our timeshare and airline reservations several months in advance. We knew of course that this was a busy travel time, and that the flights would be full.

Today with almost every flight full and airlines realizing cancellations are inevitable many flights are maximized or sold to capacity, maybe a little over sold. That is when our luck begins. Traveling at busy times, holidays, spring break, school vacations we can almost always count on flights sold out with more passengers than seats.

The airlines realize people will volunteer to accept a “bump” for money and other compensation. Being bumped off a flight is not the nicest thing in the world unless you want to take advantage of the situation and accept the airline’s offer. Remember offers are negotiable and the airline would much rather pay someone to step aside and not have to force the issue of a overbooked fight and kick someone off.

Airlines will offer on domestic flights $200-300 in the form of a voucher for future airline tickets or even a free roundtrip ticket for use at a later time, usually within one year. In addition to offering you the next available flight to your destination, they will have available in the case of a two or more hour wait vouchers for food. If it happens to be the last flight of the night and you are at a connection airport you can ask for hotel accommodations as well.

What you receive is a matter of negotiating with the gate agents, in a polite and reasonable manner. They have limits and there maybe other people who have put their names on the volunteer list with you. In our situation in February we had traveled from our home in Tucson and were making an afternoon connection in Dallas Fort Worth Airport on an International Flight (Mexico).

The gate agents had made an announcement that the flight we were to take from Dallas Fort Worth to Cancun for was full and the airline was looking for volunteers to give up their seats on the flight. In return volunteers would be guaranteed a seat on the next available flight. The offer was $600 per volunteer passenger or in our case $1200 for any American Airline flights in the next year.

Since our timeshare was waiting it was important to us to arrive in Cancun within a reasonable time of our scheduled check in. I was assured the next flight had several empty seats and we would have no problem being boarded on the very next flight and arrive about two hours later than we had planned. The gate took our tickets and said as soon as they got the flight boarded and closed out they would get our vouchers and board passes for the next flight.

Within about a half hour we were called back to the gate boarding counter given our two $600 vouchers and two boarding passes for the next flight in first class. That was not a bad little extra perk we had not expected when we gave up our two coach tickets. We arrived less than two hours later than our original schedule to enjoy our week in Cancun with our $1200 vouchers for future travel.

How can you plan out receiving future free travel?

Let me share tips that you can use to “earn” your next flights free. Good luck on helping the airline with their spoilage. Airline spoilage is a plane leaving the airport with an empty seat once the plane leaves the gate. Empty seats can never be recovered they are wasted. Once again that is why airlines practice the gamble that some passengers won’t make their scheduled flight and vouchers can be used to buy back needed seats.

Terms that need explaining: What is getting “bumped”?

Bumping is when an airline overbooks a flight and must “bump” or deny people with paid reservations boarding the flight. Overbooking as I outlined earlier is a common practice for airline to eliminate or limit the empty seats or spoilage on any flight. People may get caught in traffic, have an illness or some other last minute upset in their travel plans. No airline wants a flight to leave the gate with empty seats, money that will never be recovered. Airlines have taken to selling a few more seats than are actually on the aircraft.

What happens when everyone that is confirmed on the flight shows up? They offer to buy back the seats from passengers on a voluntary basis.

First and foremost buy a ticket on a flight that has the best opportunity of being overbooked or sold out. Think about the days that the tickets are the most expensive. Sunday afternoons and evenings, people have to be back at work or school on Monday. Friday afternoons when the business travelers are headed home for the weekend and folks that can want to start their long weekend early. If you are traveling between two cities what type of flight do you prefer? Nonstop of course, who wants to change planes and spend time between flights? My little story also told you before and after a holiday or major vacation time for families.

Buy your tickets with those points in mind. You can always call the night before the flight or even go online into your airline’s web site and check out the seat map or ask the airline agent if the flight has extra seats available. If the flight looks full get to the airport early and check-in, get to the gate and listen for any announcement about needing volunteers. The gate agents will usually indicate they have a full flight and asking for volunteers to give up their seats for compensation. You can ask about a volunteer list from the gate agent, but don’t act like a vulture waiting to hold up the bank.

One last word of caution. You can negotiate with the gate agent a little, food vouchers, overnight hotel voucher or even transportation vouchers. How the negotiation goes depends on how desperate the airline is for seats, how many people have volunteered, but just remember the airline has set guidelines for their agents in compensating passengers.

*Ask about how the next flights looks for you being able to board.
*Ask about any restrictions on free tickets or vouchers and how long you have to use them.
*Watch out for standby on another flight it could be just as full as the flight you are giving up.



Source by Harvey Akeson

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