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Mastering the Art of Getting Bumped for Money

Close up portrait of a young traveling man waiting at station and looking at mobile phone

Did you know that airline passengers could potentially make thousands of dollars in compensation by getting bumped from flights? The idea of getting bumped from a flight admittedly sounds like a nightmare if you’re traveling to get to an important work event or family obligation, however, many flyers get bumped on purpose. Opportunity-seeking travelers know that anyone with a little bit of time to kill or freedom with their schedule could actually benefit from being bumped from a flight. The media creates a big story whenever a scuffle happens because a passenger doesn’t want to get bumped from a flight. However, thousands of passengers actually request to be bumped each year! One passenger even received $10,000 in airline vouchers for the inconvenience of catching another flight. Not that married to your seat? Check out some easy tips to remember if you’d like to try your hand at getting some compensation in exchange for waiting a little longer to board your next flight.

Time Your Departures Correctly

It’s impossible to actually predict which flights will be overbooked. However, you can increase your odds of being on an overbooked flight by flying at certain times. Flying during high-volume times will certainly increase your chances of getting bumped from a crowded flight. Monday mornings and Friday evenings could be your best bets. What’s more, you’re more likely to be on an overbooked flight if you fly during busy times of the year. Booking a trip during the holidays, within the peak summertime travel window or during spring break can drastically increase your odds of being bumped.

Avoid Checking Your Luggage

A big part of being prepared to be bumped is giving yourself as much flexibility to change plans at the drop of a hat as possible. Flying with carry-on bags only will give you more flexibility when it comes to being bumped. Of course, giving up an opportunity to take advantage of a free checked bag is a pretty big commitment.

Choose Airlines That Compensate Generously and Bump Frequently

Some airlines are far more likely to bump passengers than others. Flying with an airline that frequently bumps passengers on an involuntary basis will give you a strong opportunity to volunteer. Here’s how the Bureau of Transportation Statistics says airlines rank for bump frequency:

  • Spirit Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • JetBlue Airways

Delta and United both share a reputation for paying out the most. In fact, passengers flying with Delta and United can receive as much as $10,000 for being bumped from flights in some cases. You may remember that United and other airlines revamped their compensation setups following the headline-making removal of a passenger named David Dao from a United Airlines flight back in 2017.

Ask as Early as Possible

Want to be the first one on the list if an airline needs to free up some seats? It’s a good idea to try to complete the check-in process early. Let a check-in agent know that you’d be happy to volunteer to give up your seat if your flight is oversold.

Listen by the Gate

Sometimes gate agents make last-minute announcements that they are looking for passengers who are willing to be bumped. Try to get a position right next to the gate desk as you wait to board your flight. Being close enough to catch the eye of the gate agent will ensure that you’ll be noticed when you raise your hand.

Happy Bumping!

The big thing to remember is that you never want to pester gate agents. Informing gate agents that you’re volunteering to be bumped if a flight is overbooked should be enough. There’s no need to ask for updates or pressure anyone. Another big thing to remember is that you should ask for a cash voucher. Some airlines may try to compensate you with a flight. The problem with this is that compensated flights can often come with rigid restrictions and blackout dates. You can also inquire about the other perks that are on the table. Some airlines will sweeten the deal even more by throwing in gift cards for retailers or lounge access. The bottom line is that it never hurts to ask, and remember to be polite as it goes a long way! Don’t forget to brush up on your rights as a passenger before you set out to make bank from bumped seats!

Comments are Closed.
dascc November 20, 2019

Can the airline voucher only be used on the bumped passenger? Or can it be used to cover a companion?

maskedmesothorium November 19, 2019

Also worth mentioning that not all bump compensation is created equal. Frontier may be among the tops for bump frequency, but you are required to spend the compensation within 90 days if it's a voucher. Most airlines give you a full year.

IEFBR14 November 16, 2019

snidely- I have a real life. I used to do MSM (max sgmt mode) to achieve status. On Sundays, I would fly SNA-LAX-SBA-SJC-SBA-LAX-SNA for 6 segments on a Sunday for about $100. Doing so help me achieve lifetime status at United. I walk right past people whose time is worth more than $25-$50 an hour to get preferential seats, bumps, free bags (even on no-bags Basic Economy, and free additional bag on international, which means 3 x 32kg). This was before the money-based qualification. I took the Sunday paper with me. The SJC connection was only 10 minutes long, but I never missed it. It was the same aircraft, same crew that turned around. If it was late incoming, it would be late going out. I did have to get off the plane and run my boarding pass again to insure I got credit for that connection. I even left my paper on board. The crew watched it for me, and was welcome to read it too. At times, I was the only passenger and I served my own drink and snack.

northwestair November 16, 2019

Just not a thing in Asia. Even traveling internationally does not happen except the occasional OP upgrade

fairhsa November 16, 2019

Asia is much the same as Australia. Just not a thing.