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?