Feb 27 2008

Volunteering to take a later flight

On our honeymoon, our flight connection from St. Louis to Seattle was overbooked.

Since our cruise ship wouldn’t leave for another few days, I jumped at the chance to see if we could get some sweet rewards for volunteering to take a later flight.

You see, airlines typically overbook their flights. For one reason or another, some people don’t show up to flights they’ve booked. I don’t know why they don’t, but it’s enough that airlines often sell more tickets than they have seats to ensure a maximum-capacity flight.

When everyone shows up for their flight, airlines typically first ask for volunteers to take a later flight. Sometimes it’s later that day, and sometimes it’s the next day or so.

Airlines try to compensate you for your troubles. You’ll likely receive vouchers for food, a voucher for a future flight with the company (perhaps worth up to $300 or so) and if you have to stay overnight, they might even put you up in a hotel.

When the  announcement came over the PA that  our flight to Seattle was seeking  volunteers to take a later flight, I practically ran over to the ticket counter to put our names on the list.

I forget the exact amount of compensation, but they would put us up at a hotel overnight, we’d get dinner vouchers, and we’d each get a free round-trip flight in the future.

Thinking how great it would be to be able to fly home for free, and considering we had some wiggle room in our travel plans, it seemed like a good idea.

Unfortunately, the airline didn’t need us to take a later flight after all. Enough people didn’t show up, so we made our original flight.

When we go to Florida in a few months, we’ll consider being overbooked volunteers again, so long as the terms are reasonable.

I hope that someday, I’ll be able to get a free flight!

For more on how this works, read this article on About.com. Have you ever been an overbooked volunteer? How did it go?

Posted under Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Volunteering to take a later flight”

  1. A couple of my aunts always volunteer to wait for another flight. They’re received many, many free flights that way.

    I’ve always wanted to do it, but I don’t live near a major airport. So if I were to volunteer to be bumped off a flight, it would seriously affect the person picking me up. By the time the airline decided I needed to take another flight, my ride would already be on the way to the airport.

  2. This happened to me once. I got a later flight that was direct (I had a layover before) and ended up getting to the destination city (which was incidentally Indianapolis :-)) about half an hour earlier. I got a $200 voucher which I used to surprise my boyfriend during a break when he was at home later that year. I had a good experience. :-) I’ve heard that you’re more likely to get bumped from a flight during high-traffic times, like the holidays (mine was going back to college after Christmas break).

  3. I was an overbooked United non-volunteer. I had an 8 month old baby with me. They gave us $200 travel voucher, and $15 TOTAL for my husband and I to eat at the airport. We were delayed for 10 HOURS! They did not give the baby any consideration at all and we were getting into desperate diaper situations. They also refused to allow me to use their VIP room for nursing or as a quieter spot to try to get the baby to sleep. I had to make him a pallet out of our jackets on the floor of the terminal. We asked for, and were denied, permission to make a phone call to Houston to let our ride know we’d be delayed (we lived two hours from the Houston airport and our ride was planning to simply meet us there, and we didn’t have a calling card on us or a cell phone.)

    It was really, really horrible. Another victim of the overbooking was a woman who was flying to Houston because her arm was broken and a surgeon there was going to set it for her. She was crying in pain but no one would give up their seat and the clerk just told her “first come, first serve!”

    Horrible! Actually, every time I’ve used United it was awful. (all three times!)

  4. We were offered vouchers and a hotel stay in Las Vegas on our flights to move here. We really wanted to take it — I’ve never been to Vegas and I could see the Strip from the terminal window, so it made me really want to go. But our ride to pick us up here said he couldn’t pick us up the next night. When we flew through Vegas again, I crossed my fingers it would happen, but it didn’t, of course. But unless I’m on some sort of schedule, next time I’ll probably go for it.

  5. That is absolutely horrible!

    $15 doesn’t go very far for airport food. And the fact that you had a baby in diapers…my goodness.

    I bet airport diapers are like $5 each or more.

    I’m so sorry that happened to you, and I can see why you don’t want to fly United anymore!

  6. That would be really awesome to get a free night in Vegas!

    Maybe some other time.

  7. This same thing happened to us on our honeymoon. We were flying from Greenville, SC to Charlotte to San Francisco. The Greenville flight was full and asked for volunteers. We knew we had a 4 hour layover in Charlotte, so we jumped at the chance. They gave us two vouchers for free tickets. We were given the option to sit in the airport and catch another flight in 3 hours, or we could drive to Charlotte (less than 1 1/2 hours) and still catch our original flight to San Francisco. We took the second option. We stopped and had a nice lunch (our first lunch as a married coupole) and got to Charlotte, checked in, and made our original flight. The best part was our luggage was already on the plane in Greenville and flew to Charlotte, so we didn’t have to transfer our luggage at all.

    We have already booked our two free tickets and are flying back to California in April. It was 100% free. We didn’t even have to pay taxes or a booking free.

    Our flight in April has several good layovers going and coming, so we hope to volunteer again and keep the cycle going.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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