Well, Friday was a interesting day. An accident on the freeway almost keeps us from making it to the airport on time, and then when we do get there we are almost bumped off our flight for $600.
Did you know that airlines regularly overbook their flights on purpose? It’s all a numbers game, and perfectly legal. They know that statistically a certain percentage of people will not show up on time. The result is that every so often, everyone will show up on time and they will have to to bump passengers onto later flights. By law, they must compensate you if they do this, and they also ask for volunteers before forcing anyone to be bumped. You usually get about $200-$400 credit or a free flight voucher, in addition to a confirmed seat on a later flight. They don’t mind; Extra passengers are really cheap for them, as they simply take up seats that would be empty otherwise.
The key is to getting bumped is to get on their “bump list” first:
- First, decide if you’re willing to get bumped, or book an flight earlier in the day. If this is the last flight to your daughter’s wedding, maybe skip it this time
- If you’re ambitious, you can either call ahead or check online to see if there are any more seats left. If the only seats left are at the full-fare (outrageous) price, that means it’s full or nearly full. (They almost always sell tickets at the full price, it’s cheaper just to bump someone else and pocket the difference!)
- Then, when you check in, go for the human instead of the kiosk and confirm that the flight is full. If so, asked to be put on the “bump list”. Sometimes, you’ll have to wait and do it at the gate. They’ll be happy to do so, this way they don’t have to fish for volunteers and potentially have to bump somebody involuntarily (which they can). I am usually in the lines anyways to ask for an exit row seat (I have long legs), so it’s just part of my travel routine.
- Do it as soon as you get there, don’t wait for them to ask for volunteers!
We were called off the bump list this time, and offered $300 in airline credit each. Sometimes you can haggle for more, but we didn’t this time. In the end, there were just enough no-shows so that no bumps were needed. So close! Hopefully this can help someone on the way back home from the holidays.
By Jonathan Ping | Frugal Living | 12/24/06, 12:45pm