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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.
I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! From time to time I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own story, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Bryan, who got paid handsomely for volunteering to be bumped from a flight. Here’s what he had to say:
I was going to visit friends in the Raleigh-Durham area, and had booked a 6:00 am Delta flight from Boston. When I checked in the night before, Delta was already asking for volunteers to give up their seats. Unlike other airlines, Delta asks how much compensation you’d need to be bumped, and I opted for the lowest amount ($200). That may seem too low, but my intention was never to accept $200. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity to express interest and get my name on the list.
When I arrived at the gate early the next morning, I was the first one summoned by the gate agent. She confirmed the flight was oversold and that Delta was offering $400 to volunteers. Even better, she said I could choose between a Delta voucher and various gift cards, including American Express gift cards. The only downside was that the gift cards would expire after six months, but I didn’t think using them would be an issue.
I knew the next non-stop flight was scheduled for 8:45 am, but the gate agent was only able to confirm a seat on the 11:50 am flight. After making sure my friends in Raleigh didn’t mind the schedule change, I convinced the Delta agent to increase the offer to $600, and asked to be placed on standby for the 8:45 am flight. My original flight was oversold by about 3-4 passengers; each of the other volunteers also received $600, but they were moved to a 2:00 pm flight.
While processing my payment and my boarding pass for the 11:50 am flight, the gate agent discovered that one seat had opened on the 8:45 am flight, and I had been confirmed for the earlier departure. I made my way over to the new gate and relaxed for a couple hours after letting my friends know I would be arriving earlier than anticipated.
Then, while waiting for the 8:45 am flight to start boarding, the new gate agent announced that flight had also been oversold, and the offer for volunteers started at $1,000! I ran to the desk and asked if there were still seats on the 11:50 am flight, and the gate agent confirmed there was one seat left. For the third time, I changed my itinerary and then called my friends to explain my new plan. I was thrilled to have $1,600 in gift cards, but when the gate agent processed my ticket I found out I had also been upgraded to First Class, and I was given a $15 meal voucher for my time.
This was all made possible by making sure that I spoke to the gate agent early, knowing what the next available flights were, and being first to the desk after the oversold announcement. I had never planned on only accepting $200 for volunteering, but expressing my interest allowed me to get the face-to-face contact needed to bargain and maximize my opportunity.
Following April’s Bumpgate debacle, many airlines have updated overbooking policies to help resolve oversold situations amicably. As a result, getting bumped from a flight is becoming even more lucrative, so it’s worth reading up on what to do when your gate agent starts asking for volunteers. Bryan smartly researched his other flight options in advance, and showed up to his gate early and prepared, all of which improved his chances of being compensated and offered a viable alternative. Getting bumped a second time (and moved up to first class) was lucky, but it all stemmed from him being proactive.
Most airlines offer flight vouchers as payment to volunteers, but Delta has recently been offering gift cards in select cities. Even with a six-month expiration window, an Amex gift card is a much better option, since you can redeem it toward most purchases and not just airfare. At worst, you could use it to purchase other gift cards that won’t expire, whereas you have few options to extend the life of an airline voucher.
Keep in mind that there’s also a downside to getting bumped. Changing your flight at the last minute can jeopardize your plans if you need to arrive at a specific time, if you have connections to make, or even if you’ve simply checked bags. Unlike Bryan, you may also end up with a worse seat or an inconvenient routing, so make sure you know exactly what you’re getting before you give your final consent. Of course, you should also know your rights in case of an involuntary bump.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Bryan for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.
Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Know before you go.
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