So, You Want To Get Bumped And Make $10,000?

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Back in my single days I’d do some crazy things to earn miles and vouchers.

  • I flew home from my smicha program in Los Angeles to Cleveland in 2006 and made 14 connections to earn over 100K AA miles on a promotion that American was running that offered 10K bonus miles for each flight segment that was to or from Dallas.
  • I got 8 worldwide free flight vouchers with American’s 2003 promotion like that awarded a free ticket to anywhere in the world after flying twice between NYC and Florida or California.
  • I collected thousands of Wendy’s cups for Airtran points in 2005 which I turned into tens of thousands of dollars in Continental and United flight vouchers, some of which I still have to this day.

I also loved getting bumped.

My first time getting bumped was when I was visiting my grandparents in Tucson some 16 years ago. I was on United flying back to yeshiva in Los Angeles when I heard the call for volunteers to be bumped. I negotiated 2 free round-trip tickets and was thrilled, even if my rosh yeshiva wasn’t.

Shortly after that I got bumped off a Continental flight from Cleveland to Los Angeles and negotiated a first class seat and $500 in travel vouchers for taking the next nonstop flight.

In 2008 I was engaged to Mimi and she flew from Kansas City while I flew from Cleveland to Chicago to celebrate my Zayde’s 80th birthday party during Chol Hamoed Sukkos. This time I noticed that my United flight back to Cleveland was sold out, so I went to the counter to offer my seat as tribute in exchange for flight credits and a first class seat on the next flight. Over the next 18 hours I got bumped 5 times, got thousands of dollars in flight credits, was given a hotel voucher, and could have kept going except that it was Erev Yom Tov and I had to get home. United wound up bumping me one last time onto a Continental flight, which earned full fare miles.

After United’s Dr. Dao fiasco, they announced that they would authorize gate agents to award up to $10,000 in travel vouchers. In other words, United’s goal was to attempt eliminating involuntarily denied boarding.

Yesterday, Allison Preiss tweeted that United was offering $1,000 in travel vouchers to be bumped off her flight:

 

The gate agent should have gone higher than that after getting no bites, but gate agents are under more pressure than ever to get flights out on time.

In this case the gate agent went through the motions of starting the involuntary denied boarding process. The computer selects a passenger to be removed. It’s not done Hunger Games style, it’s based on who is booked in the cheapest fare class, who checked in the latest, and who isn’t an elite member, an unaccompanied minor, or a disabled traveler. It’s more like, you are the weakest link, goodbye!

 

At the same time, gate agents are under pressure not to involuntarily deny boarding to anyone. Doing so looks bad for United and means they are liable to pay out cold hard cash, up to $1,350.

Therefore the gate agent upped the travel voucher ante in exchange for Allison signing they she volunteered her seat:

 

In the end they settled on a whopping $10,000 travel voucher:

 

So, how can you get $10,000?

Well, you probably won’t. Allison was not the first to win the $10,000 United lottery, but on most flights the gate agent will find volunteers long before things get that high. In this case there likely wasn’t enough time to find someone, so it wound up going to $10,000.

If you like living on the edge, you can try to put yourself in line to be picked by the computer. Buy the cheapest seat, checkin at the last minute, don’t select a seat, don’t have any elite status, travel by yourself, don’t checkin any bags, etc.

Otherwise, you can search online to see if the airline is still selling seats for your flight. If they are no longer selling any seats, then your flight may be overbooked. In that case, you be at the gate an hour before the flight and make sure to let the gate agent know that you are interested in volunteering your seat. Once they need you, be ready to negotiate, ask for $$$$ in travel vouchers and a first class seat, but be aware that if you overplay your hand you may be underbid by someone else.

It helps to know what alternate flights have space that will work for you as that will save the gate agent time and hassle.

I’ve lost out on bump vouchers by hanging out in airport lounges, so if you’re really interested in getting bumped you need to hang around the gate area and let the agent know where to find you.

When there are weather disruptions, aircraft swaps, or other situations that cause massive oversell situations you’ll have the best odds of being bumped and have the most leverage. Don’t accept less money in travel in vouchers than you would get in cash (4 times your fare, up to $1,350) being involuntarily denied boarding.

Final bit of advice: Be sure the gate agent doesn’t give away your seat unless you are confirmed to be bumped off the flight. Sometimes gate agents will give away your seat and then stick you in the middle seat of the last row next to the bathroom when they see at the last minute that they actually don’t need to bump anyone, so make it clear that you do not want to lose your seat unless the bump is confirmed.

What was the most you have made getting bumped? What strategies did you use?

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87 Comments On "So, You Want To Get Bumped And Make $10,000?"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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Davidrotts63

Thanks Doc for removing my teeth for me……. Sorry I mean your teeth

Eli

How does it work when getting bumped on a flight booked with points?

Sruly

$400 and business class to Europe.

Ed Travel

I missed a bump yesterday 🙁
I was flying SFO to JFK and because of the weather in NY I knew that flight was very oversold since it was one of the first flight that was actually going to make it to NY. The problem was that the traffic in San Francisco was horrible so I got to the gate 10 minutes before the door closed…Too late to be put in the list…

DZ

Not highest but easiest $ made was volunteering to switch from window seat mid-cabin to window seat last row on same flight for $100 on DL.

Anom

$400

jen

i got bumped off a USairways flight in Charlotte. was headed to Israel with a stop in Germany. I got $500 and they put me up in a hotel, flew me to PHL the next day and then i flew lie flat business direct to TLV. when i saw the flight to germany was oversold after united booked an entire cancelled flight on to US and a family had been stuck for 24 hours and was given 2/3 seats they needed i offered my seat at the counter. I told them I would only accept the bump if they flew me business direct, took a bit of haggling…but it worked.

Atara Serle

How can you tell if flight is/being sold out?

Never again

I negotiated 2 get bumped with my wife for $1500
Wife threw out the vouchers by mistake

sam

u can call united and they will email to u your vouchers

Frequent Flyer

I was in KC for business once. I was scheduled to fly Friday morning but didn’t want to stay the night and pay for a hotel. I bought a refundable one way ticket from MCI to LGA for a Thursday night flight for $800.I checked in for the flight Thursday afternoon, took a snapshot of the boarding pass and the called to cancel the flight. I get to the airport Thursday and get through security with my now cancelled boarding pass. At the gate, they take my carry on bag to be checked in and the agent takes a look at my boarding pass. He says I’m not on the flight but I’m on flight for Friday morning. He deems it as a computer error and gets me on Thursday flight. Now he announces the flight is oversold and he needs a volunteer. I volunteer “my” seat for a flight I was never on. Long story short, I received a $1,000 voucher and free hotel while the Thursday flight got cancelled and people are scrambling to get on Friday 6am flight which I was already on!

M

Risky? If the catches that you canceled what can they do to you?

..

wow

Skor

What!

g

i would say you stole $1000 plus the value of the hotel room.

jack

bragging about your scams is always a smart move. you got any others that invovle murder maybe?

jim

i think thats the most ridiculous analogy possible

yelped

You do realize that what you did is plain and simple stealing, right?

Seth

I was only 16 flying from Amsterdam to Dulles, I believe on Continental, when they asked for volunteers. The problem was that the next available flight was not for three days. Nobody volunteered. It eventually got to $2000 plus hotels and per diem for food. I decided to try my luck and shockingly they didn’t notice/care about my age. I asked for an upgrade on top of everything else and they did put me in front. My parents were NOT happy but I sure was.

dfromny

Pretty sweet!!

Kosher?

I was denied a bump (after agreeing to terms) on Cathay because I had a Kosher meal!

dfromny

did you demand kosher on the next flight? @dan how does that work?

If I don\'t ask I\'ll never know

Without waiting to hear an announcement at boarding, How can you tell on your own if a flight is overbooked?

I’ve played detective by listening to ticket agents at the desk and catching on that there’s a problem with seats, and then made sure to be last ones to board… And walla I got lie-flat.

But how can I figure out if it’s overbooked without doing that?

Peter Leblanc

We just were offered $800 voucher or 80k points x3 people to change flights for a flight that was 10 days out but oversold. I took the points which they combined to 1 account for 240k.

Delta from Eleuthera Bahamas, with flights only every other day. We grabbed cheap flights to Nassau and they rerouted us from there and we booked a hotel in Nassua for one night on points.

Our original flight was on points. I bet if they didn’t handle this now it could be chaos at the airport.

Shmuel yoisef binyumin

Bistumuh you wont still have your kosher meal if you get bumped right?

Shaul

Was nearly bump volunteerily twice.

1st time, I was the 2nd to last person to board – the last person got a seat in F (commuter plane). I didn’t have a seat assignment, so I had nothing to lose.

2nd time, they also didn’t need me in the end, but the agent put my wife and me in lie-flat J on a redeye LAX-NYC next to each other – we were originally supposed to be in middle-seats in Y way in the back.

bler

I had an open ticket when I went to Israel for a year of yeshiva. I did not plan on going back to US for pesach but obviously tons of ppl do. I chose a Thursday nite flight right around rosh chodesh nissan that I figured would be packed on which most ppl wouldn’t agree to be bumped because that would likely mean spending an extra shabbos away from home. So I reserved my seat way before it was full but didn’t go the airline office to get it stamped confirmed as usual (because if my plan didn’t work and I wasn’t bumped I would have lost the ticket). Then as it got close I kept calling the airline to volunteer to be bumped. Finally day of flight theyagree to bumpt me and offered roundtrip airfare TLV-USA voucher. I quickly got on a bus from Jeru to TLV, went to the counter and got my voucher (just to make sure they wouldn’t renege when they realized I wasn’t really ‘confirmed’ for the flight). The next year I went home for pesach for free with the voucher.

dfromny

nice, yeshivah thinking lol

Lechatchileh ariber

United, $600 _cash_ and lie flat business lax-mel

chana

got to the gate too late to board a over sold flight out of keywest. was offered $1600 CASH per ticket for a 6 hour delay…airport had a beach and wifi- no complaining here

billy

Pretty sure this person didn’t really get $10k.

SFO-EWR

I just flew on United from San Francisco to Newark & landed right before this 4th North Eastern storm in NY. I asked to get bumped, thinking everyone wanted to get into NY before the storm hits, unfortunately it was not an overbooked flight.

United allows free flight changes if there are weather issues. Originally I was going to change my flight to Los Angeles, then to NY. Too close to Pesach(I was needed to help out at home) I wanted to beat out the storm, landing in Newark @ 5:30am Wednesday, but wishing I could’ve seen Los Angeles & hoped I would’ve gotten bumped, paying for most of my trip.

Lchaim yidden! A frielichen Pesach!

Shayna

Dan, my sister and I got $60 round trip tickets to Hawaii in 2014 thanks to you! We got to the airport and volunteered to get bumped…Delta put us on a flight 3 hours later, we flew first class, and got $600 vouchers!!

Zal

1) twa, bumped par-nyc for one day, hotel and free international flight rt

2) Air France par-nyc, bumped for 3-4 hours $600 cash

3) air france, nyc-par, bumped for a day, hotel and $400 travel voucher

dave

Don’t accept less money in travel in vouchers than you would get in cash (4 times your fare, up to $1,350) being involuntarily denied boarding.

How did you come up with the math 4 times your fare?

Al

Many years ago on AA, got bumped, rebooked and then bumped again. I think I received $800 in vouchers. On UA, returning from the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, I received $400 and was hardly delayed at all. Got home the same night, that’s for sure. Haven’t been bumped recently. In the end, they don’t need the seat.

mike

Last night my friend showed up to a connecting flight AA in mia with 12 minutes before departure time (doors should close at 10 min) due to delayed inbound. Door was closed and no gate agent to be found. Forced to overnight in mia and depart on the same flight the next day, what do you think he would get when opening a AA customer service complaint. The flight very well may have been oversold and they did this on purpose. They did provide hotel/food/transport. I know AA may not give $2000+ for bumping someone but easily $600+ for a flight thats once a day (mia-sea)

Eitan

Back in 2015 I had a flight from NY to Boston and it was overbooked, they offered $200 voucher to be bumped and I tried negotiating with them to offer more. They ended up agreeing to give me $500 but they said it would be in Bitcoin. I was annoyed at the time but I took it and now its worth like $6K!!

Wow

Were you flying AirKorea? What airline uses Bitcoin?! Have you sold the Bitcoin yet? BC $500 worth of Bitcoin in 2015 would be worth a lot more than $6,000 now. That’s awesome.

Eitan

It was Jet Blue, I haven’t touched the Bitcoin so maybe it’s worth more than I think but I know it’s a lot

A pean

Lol

Broussard

Back in 1999 I was flying home from yeshiva in los angeles and had a connecting flight from lax-dfw-mia.
when i got to lax, the lax-dfw flight was on a maintenance delay. It was supposed to be a 45 minute delay. They also announced that it was oversold and looking for volunteers to go on the next flight. I was assured that my connection would be good, so I volunteered and as was compensation back then, received a free r/t voucher anywhere in the continental US. As I was leaving the gate with my new boarding pass and voucher the other gate agent announced the plane needs a part and they would be delayed an additional 3 hours. My rebooked flight ended up slightly delayed due to weather, but when we landed I had time to run to the gate. As I approached the gate area they were announcing that flight XYZ to MIA was oversold and needed volunteers. I went straight to the counter and volunteered, got a hotel voucher since it was the last flight of the day, another free r/t, 2 ten minute phone cards (those were gold in yeshiva), food voucher (bought a bunch of lays and coke), a night amenities kit and rebooked in first for the next morning.

good times

Js

I offers my seat on a flight from yul to ewr bec they were overbooked they put on the next flight 2 hours later and gave me 650$ voucher

YP

Who remembers People Express?

I showed up for my flight and I didn’t have a reservation. I saw that they were looking for volunteers. I walked over to payphone and I made a reservation using their automated system using the phone’s push-buttons. I walked back to the gate and said I’m ready to volunteer.They gave me a round-trip ticket and I flew an hour later.

CM

I was on a delta flight from on the way back from my cousins bar mitzvah ended up with 600$ in Amex gift cards. Me and my aunt got bumped and went to the mall of America on our stop over. And a delta stewards told me they almost over sell. So if you need the extra cash book with delta.

Judy

$800 and first class seat on one flight

Switched from layover to nonstop on a mileage ticket and got $500-because I had to be in middle seat, though exit row. Then got additional $360 because wifi wasn’t working. On a 12,500 economy plus seat, LA to ewr. I love United!

Uncle Moe

I got 1300 Amex cash cards from Delta on an NYC to Chicago, I only dream for this everytime I fly with them but have not gotten lucky ever since

Koby Berkovits

Wow Dan you went to some effort mate! Lucky to score all that!

Maier Solomon

Why is it that I don’t have the mazal you do Dan?

Motti

Was offered 3 round trips on Spirit, not including the taxes and government fees, which essentially means that they gave me 1 cents off (literally 1 cent!). I should complain to the DoT

C

Flying EWR-TLV in United I was flying alone the flight was over sold they were looking for volunteers to bump and I volunteered. They ended up with an extra seat in B/F and offered it to me (which I happily accepted) once on board an agent came on Board with a clipboard and gave envelopes to a few passengers including me. When I opened the envelope it was a $450 voucher on United (score) the flight ended up getting delayed but I was asleep and woke up when we landed in TLV funniest part was a few weeks later I got ANOTHER voucher from Untied for $650 in the mail for the delay. My original tickets was about $1000, I ended up in Business Class and received $1100 in United credit 🙂

Steve

And here I thought I won the lottery this week when I got 3k from united after getting bumped!

willie

got $1350 amex card on a connection from jfk-lhr-tlv BA after the plane in JFK was smaller than was supposed to be because of problems with the original plane. They put me on the same flight the next day and I was thrilled. I even sent in my dinner receipt and got credited..

If I don\'t ask I\'ll never know

My buddy and I showed up to our flight as that last people were boarding the plane (20 min before departure time) and we were told there are no seats left, we’ll have to put you on later flight. They even mentioned that “we came so late that they had already put people who were on standby on the plane”
We ended up on the plane because two roudy guys were kicked off and we got their seats.
If we hadn’t gotten on, were they allowed to just stick us on next flight without offering anything?
If not, what would you have suggested to say? We agree to be on next flight if you give us etc etc etc in vouchers?

Lawboy
ddd fdfdd

Dan,
I just love guys like you who get these free stuff.I just got 2 roundtrip tickets EWR-DCA for free from united after I placed a complaint.

rh

I flew TLV – NYC via YYZ. The flight was delayed and we missed our connecting flight. The airline gave us free hotel / Food vouchers and booked us on flights out the next morning. IS there any way I can make some money off this delay. (We were supposed to come in
before 4pm and got in about 10pm – we had a 4 hr delay in TLV and a longer flight time). Is there anything the airline would give me or claim from travelers insurance or credit card?

Yitzchak

Was bumped from Bzns to Eco.+ On TLV-LON El Al flight involuntarily.
They gave me free R/T bzns on flights up to 6 hrs from Israel.

abe

Family of 8,on the way to Israel, they offered us $1,000 per seat, but we had to make it for a bar mitzvah… We turned them down

Yitzie

A few weeks ago I was in ORD going to LAS a day after lots of canceled flights due to weather. The GA went from 400 to 700 however the next flight was the next day. I had 4 passengers and they needed 4 seats. She jumped up to 1000 per person. I started walking up to negotiate better (same day with connection) and maybe some more.lbut two people standing there bit the bullet. My issue is exactly what you mentioned in your post. They normally make you stand on the side till everyone boards . Then they “see” if they actually need you. I only take COD when it comes to airlines bumping.

Lorry Laby

Long time ago, returning to SFO from Hawaii, got bumped with my two children. We were put on a flight 7 hours later, given meal vouchers, round trip return (to Hawaii) tickets (which we used!), and flown home 1st class. Awesome!

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