While all travelers want to reach their final destinations as soon as possible, giving up your seat in exchange for a later flight can have its own advantages when it comes to earning points and miles. Recently, I was waiting to board a flight to Chicago when I heard the gate agent ask if a few passengers would be willing to give up their seats since the flight was overbooked. I thought nothing of it until I heard what she was offering in return – $200 in cold hard cash and an upgrade on the next flight out!
I didn’t take the deal, but might actually be regretting it by the time my credit card statement comes in - those couple of extra hours may actually have been worth it...
Airlines occasionally sell extra tickets so flights are filled to capacity. It’s then up to gate agents to rearrange seat assignments and make sure flights leave on time. If you’re a travel loyalty member hoping to use your points and miles to help turn your dream vacation into reality, volunteering to get bumped from a flight may be something to consider. While most airlines don’t offer miles and points directly in exchange for getting bumped, you can use the cash voucher to book a future flight, getting one step closer to the total number of miles you need for a free flight.
The extra few hours you spend waiting for the next flight can also prove valuable when it comes to racking up miles and points. From grabbing a quick bite to shopping for essentials, travel rewards credit cards can help you earn points and miles while hanging around the airport.
For example, Citi Prestige cardholders can collect two times the points on dining and entertainment options. The Citi ThankYou points you earn from such purchases can then be redeemed for any number of loyalty rewards, including free airfare or hotel stays.
Eager to try it out? Check out my top tips for making the most of getting bumped from a flight.
Keep an eye out for full flights during the holidays
The busier an airport is, the more likely your flight will be oversold. If you’re scheduling travel plans around holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, keep your eye on the screen during check-in and your ears open to the intercom at the terminal to find out if your flight has been oversold. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the number of long-distance trips increase by 54 percent during the Thanksgiving travel period and 23 percent around Christmas. Keep in mind that since airlines will be busier than normal, gate agents may be willing to sweeten the pot in exchange for your seat – especially in an effort to ensure overbooked flights take off on time.
Check in early
Delta is one of many airlines that will let you know if a flight has been oversold as you check in at the kiosk. If that turns out to be the case, grab your luggage and make a bee-line straight for security and your terminal. Gate agents will often give preference to passengers who check in and arrive at the gate before everyone else. Although he or she may not be looking for volunteers just yet, approach the gate agent and let them know you’re willing to give up your seat.
The gate agent will keep you in mind once it gets closer to boarding. Step to the side and give the gate agent some time to sort things out before bringing up the voluntary bump once again.
Ask and you shall receive
In the event of an overbooked flight, don’t stray too far from the gate, as the agent may want to begin discussing compensation for your seat. Once that happens, listen closely so you can decide whether it’s worth the extra few hours you may need to spend in the airport or at a hotel. While the Department of Transportation requires airlines to follow a specific set of rules when compensating passengers who are involuntarily bumped from a flight, those rules don’t apply to passengers who voluntarily agree to give up their spot. That means you’ll have the opportunity to negotiate the compensation that best works for you.
Take the time to consider all options, including confirmed first class on the next flight, or a cash voucher that can be applied toward meals, a free hotel stay, booking a future flight – and earning points and miles while you’re at it – or buying loyalty points and miles. Even though it’s not all that common, you might even be able to convince the gate agents to offer points or miles in exchange for getting bumped, especially as they approach takeoff time and still need to free up a few seats. Gate agents typically won’t offer more unless you ask for it, so be sure not to sell yourself short once it comes time to strike a deal.
Pack essentials in a carry on
Volunteering to take a later flight means you may not have access to your checked baggage for longer than usual, especially if your luggage already been loaded onto your original flight. Luckily, JetBlue TrueBlue Mosaic members have the option of bringing a carry on along with two free checked bags. Many other airlines offer travelers – loyalty members and others – the option to carry a personal item and small suitcase on board free of charge. Reserve your carry-on bag for essential items such as medication, small toiletries and chargers so you’re prepared for a few extra hours at the airport. Also, don’t worry about your checked baggage. It will be available for pick up once you reach your final destination.