There is no easier way to get free airline money than by getting bumped on purpose for compensation. Airlines consistently try to make money by purposely overbooking flights, and that is why you rarely get on a plane now that isn’t completely full. There is a way to use this to your advantage.
If your plans are flexible and you don’t mind waiting a couple of extra hours, you can volunteer your seat for another passenger in exchange for an airline voucher. Prices depend on supply and demand, and can range from around $200 to as high as $500 for waiting a couple of more hours. Sometimes depending on the amount of the wait until your next flight, you can also get food vouchers so you can eat at one of the airport restaurants while you wait. If it’s late at night you might have to stay until the next morning, in which case the airlines usually give you another voucher to use at a hotel nearby to stay overnight. The decision on whether to give up your seat or not is entirely up to you, and you should take into consideration the amount of money you’re receiving, the length of the wait until the next available flight, and your travel plans to determine if it’s worth doing or not.
If you want to increase your chances of being picked, make sure to inform the agent when you get to the gate. The agent will take your name down, and if it is needed, they will call you and let you know that your seat is needed and the amount of compensation they are willing to issue. Keep an eye on the agent and stay seated nearby so you don’t miss them calling you. They usually announce it publicly when they need volunteers, but by letting them know ahead of time you will assist them and avoid it being announced and having someone beat you to it.
Some airlines will ask at the check-in kiosks if you are willing to get bumped and will even ask what you are willing to accept as a credit. Pretty sneaky way of getting volunteers ahead of time and also saving some money by possibly picking the lowest bidder.
On a recent flight back from Atlanta to Miami in early October, it was obvious that they would need volunteers, as this was around the time when AA was having its “small” airplane maintenance crisis, and the airport was packed with the overflow into other airlines. I immediately went up to the Delta agent and told her I was willing to get bumped, and she said that compensation for my seat was a $400 voucher for a flight that was only 2 hours later. I immediately jumped on the offer and told her I was interested and had her take my name down. I got bumped and flew out 2 hours later with a $400 voucher that I plan to use for a free flight this year. $400 for a two hour wait. A steal!!!!
Things to watch out for:
It’s important to know your future travel plans in advance, as airline vouchers usually expire one year after they have been issued, so if you have no use for another flight, then this option is not for you. Also, if you’re getting bumped, make sure the agent can give you a confirmed seat on the next flight, and that they’re not just putting you on standby. You don’t want to wait a few hours for compensation and then find out you’ve been bumped again.
This is a great option to get free flight credits out of the airlines!