Earn/Save Money

Get Bumped From Your Flight: The Easiest Way To Score Free Travel

Have you ever been at the airport waiting to board your flight, and an announcement goes off that your flight is overbooked? If you’re like me, your heart stops as you envision them giving away your seat, crying and pleading and punching security. Well, there are some crazies out there who actually volunteer to give up their seat – and these, my friends, are frugal champions. These people know how to score free travel.

Generally airlines will offer a flight voucher to those who volunteer their seats on overbooked flights that can be used towards future travel for up to one year. The amount usually depends on the length of your delay – anywhere from $200 to up to $650. International flight overbooking can fetch anywhere from $800 to $1000. On top of the flight money, airlines may also offer food and hotel vouchers if you have an overnight delay. If it’s not offered, just negotiate for it.

**Important: Be sure to read the fine print of the agreement before signing up to be bumped. The terms and conditions of the flight voucher may have an expiration date, blackout dates, or even restrictions against using it for the cheapest fare – which could make getting bumped a bad deal. **


* Nowadays, overbooked flights are more common than ever – so go to the ticket counter first and then the gate when you arrive and ask if they are looking for volunteers to give up their seats for a voucher. The earlier you arrive to the gate, the better.

* Make sure you’re using carry-on bags only, or pack a change of clothes in your carry-on if you plan on doing this (at least have some clean undies).

* Booking flights at peak travel times such as early weekday morning flights, Friday afternoons and Sunday evenings will be the most likely to be overbooked.

* Emphasize your loyalty to the airline to help negotiate for extra vouchers and access to the swanky lounge while you wait. This can also help you build up your frequent flier miles for a future free flight.

Other ways to earn free flights:

Complain: If you have a crappy experience that is the airlines fault – such as a major flight delay or lost baggage – make sure you call or write a letter of complaint and request to be reimbursed for your flight and other expenses that came as a result of your hardship. Be sure to include your flight number, date and seat number – as well as your frequent flyer number in case they can offer bonus miles (see my post on complaining like a pro here: Mastering the Art of Complaining).

Credit card rewards: Having a rewards credit card that allows you to accumulate points towards travel is key to saving money on flights. Right now many cards are offering unbelievable sign-up bonuses that instantly earn you free flights for just getting approved. I just got my Chase Sapphire Preferred card that will give me 40,000 bonus miles if I spend $3k in the next three months – that’s a round trip flight. Read more about why I chose this card here: My Search For The Best Travel Rewards Card. Of course it’s important to pay off your balance on time since rewards cards generally carry higher interest rates.

Companion voucher: Various resorts and cruise lines occasionally offer airfare credits or free companion fare vouchers. Sign up for airline newsletters to stay current on the latest deals. For example, the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card from American Express offers customers a free companion voucher each year. You can apply the voucher to any regular online bookings.

So now you know that there are other ways to travel for free other than going away with your parents or having a “staycation” (this just means you’re too broke to go anywhere). Enjoy!


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