This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Jeff, who changed his travel plans too early when his flight was oversold. Here’s what he had to say:

Recently, while traveling to Chicago on United just prior to a snowstorm, I was informed that my flight was overbooked and looking for people to give up their seats. I was only going for one night, so when the offer for compensation rose to $1,000, I volunteered. I asked the gate agent if I was definitely being taken up on my offer, because I needed to cancel my hotel room and meeting to give fair notice to my co-workers. He told me to proceed, and said I would be called back up to get my voucher after the flight boarded.

I canceled my travel plans, but then just before the flight left, I was called up and ushered onto the plane because a seat had opened up. The in-flight Wi-Fi wasn’t working, so I had to wait until we landed to re-book my schedule. My hotel ended up costing me $50 more on late notice, and I was unable to reschedule my meeting because my co-workers scheduled another meeting after I canceled. As a result, I ended up paying more for my trip and flew to Chicago for no reason.

The lesson I learned is that when volunteering my seat on a plane, I will never again completely cancel my travel until after the entire process is complete. I was able to get some restitution by emailing United to complain, as they sent me a $400 travel voucher for my trouble. Still, I hope others can learn from my mistake.

Volunteering your seat on an overbooked flight is a high-risk, high-reward situation. You can score a huge payday like this Delta passenger did in September, but you may instead (or also) end up dealing with an inferior seating assignment, missing luggage or some other mishap. To take advantage of overbooking, you need to have a plan. Be clear about which aspects of your itinerary are negotiable and how much compensation you need to make getting bumped worthwhile. If the offer isn’t good enough or the flight alternatives don’t suit your needs, don’t agonize over it; just politely decline and wait for the next opportunity.

As Jeff pointed out, his mistake was changing his plans prematurely. A lot can happen between when an airline first asks for volunteers and when the aircraft pulls back from the gate, so I recommend waiting until you have a voucher in hand before making other arrangements. If you do end up getting bumped, you’ll have plenty of time to update your itinerary and notify others from the airport. That said, airlines could do a better job of setting expectations when flights are oversold. Volunteers deserve to know the range of possible outcomes, and Jeff’s gate agent should never have presented the voucher as a done deal if that wasn’t the case.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Jeff for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.