Airfare: How Getting Bumped Saves You Money

Have you ever been at the airport waiting for your flight to board when the attendants announced that their are too many passengers booked and some will have to wait for another flight?

Well, “getting bumped” to another flight may seem like a bummer, but it is a great way to save on airfare — minus the inconvenience.

Getting bumped happens because airlines allow overbooking for flights, counting on no shows so that they can still take off at full, or near-full capacity.

However, if more passengers check-in than they had anticipated, the airline has to ask if their are any volunteers to wait for the next available flight. If there are not enough volunteers, then they will start bumping passengers themselves.

Freebies for being bumped

Here are some things passengers have been offered:

  • free meal if the wait for the next flight or a delay is 2 hours or more
  • a free hotel stay that night if the next available flight is for the next day
  • admission to the VIP club
  • discounted airfare for your next trip
  • travel voucher giving you a free flight (note, this doesn’t always cover round-trip, so be prepared to purchase your one-way ticket back)
  • a discount or refund on your current flight

The latter is particularly a good deal for passengers who do not fly that frequently or have a low likelihood of using that same airline for their next travels if they’re headed to a location the airline doesn’t cover.

Also, some of the coupons or travel vouchers have expiration dates. If you don’t use them in time, it’s as if you were never compensated for your inconvenience.

Volunteer to be bumped

A way to save money on your flight and to negotiate better terms is to volunteer to be bumped. Here’s how to do it:

Call the airline the morning of your flight or the night before if it leaves early in the a.m. Ask the airline if the flight is overbooked. If they say yes, arrive at the terminal 90 minutes to 2 hours early for domestic flights and tell the ticket clerk that you are willing to be bumped should the need arise.

Volunteers are taking in the order they volunteer, so that earlier you arrive at the airport the better your chances. You still can ask to be put on the volunteer list if you arrive later, but your chances of getting bumped decreases.

You can always back out from the list when the time comes and their airlines are not offering you the best freebie deal. Only take the bump if you’re happy with what you’re being offered.

Also, only take the bump if your time is flexible. If you have a connecting flight or are trying to make it to a boat launch for a cruise, you’ll probably be better off if you hold on to your seat.

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