If you have flown on any airline in the past year, you realize that the flights are much more crowded, and very frequently there are no vacant seats. The airlines are trying to maximize their profits in an economy where they have suffered losses, and some have even been forced out of business.
One of their strategies is to overbook seats on flights, assuming that some passengers will not show up for their flights. If you are a savvy traveler, you can use this situation to your advantage, by volunteering to get “bumped,” and in exchange, obtain vouchers for free airline flights.
The US Department of Transportation requires airlines to ask passengers on an oversold flight to voluntarily give up their seats in exchange for compensation. They would prefer to do this before having to bump any passengers involuntarily for obvious reasons. If you are interested in learning how to effectively get bumped, here are some tips to keep in mind.
*Check in advance to see if the flight is full. You can do this by calling the airline, or checking your reservation online, and checking if there are any available seats.
*Arrive at your gate early, and be the first one at the counter when the airline personnel arrive. Ask if the flight is overbooked, and offer to volunteer to give up your seat before they make start making announcements.
*Before committing to give up your seat, verify that in exchange, you will receive either a free ticket or cash. In either case, find out the value of the flight or voucher. Recent reports have been in the $400-$500 range.
*Ask if they can guarantee a confirmed reservation the next flight for the same day, to your original destination. If there is no guaranteed seat on the next flight, tell them you will take one on another airline.
*If there is going to be a long delay until your next flight, inquire about meal vouchers.
*If there are no flights to your original destination until the following day, ask for hotel and transportation vouchers. They are not always willing to pay for a hotel, but usually have arrangements with local hotels near the airport and you can get a room for a low rate. If this is the case, the airline will usually pay taxi fare.
While there are no rules requiring airlines to compensate passengers for voluntarily getting bumped from an overbooked flight, most US airlines offer some form of compensation, usually in the form of a free ticket. Passengers can negotiate with the airline when they are giving up their ticket on oversold flights. If you are flexible, and come to the airport prepared, you can get to your destination, and also receive a free flight for future use.