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Get bumped and fly free

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As I mentioned a few days ago I had to travel for work early last week, and as I waited for my delayed flight at Newark Airport (as if New Jersey wasn’t crappy enough, I had to spend hours in a crappy airport in New Jersey) I noted several flights which were oversold and were requesting volunteers to be bumped to a later flight. The standard seemed to be a $400 travel voucher, hotel accommodations (these were late evening flights), meal vouchers, and a seat on any flight to the destination the following day. Continental seemed very desperate for volunteers for its last flight out to Miami, as they offered a $500 voucher, hotel, meals, and a first class seat on the first flight out the next morning. As the airlines are running at historically high load rates (the last data I saw said the average in July was about 90% of all seats filled), the opportunities for taking a bump are becoming more frequent.

If you are relatively flexible in your travel plans, this can be an easy way to rack up free travel. I did this a while back on a trip back from California where they offered a $500 voucher for volunteers to go on a later flight. I still got back home that night, and have enough for a free flight to visit a buddy in Boston the following summer. One thing worth noting is that these vouchers often have expirations of a year from issuance, so consider whether you’ll actually be able to use the voucher before volunteering.

The flight I had out that evening was also seeking volunteers for bumping, but I decided not to take it since I wouldn’t have a direct flight the next day and I had a mid-morning conference call. Looking back though, I’m wondering whether I should have taken it since we were delayed an extra hour at the gate because Continental loaded cargo first and didn’t leave room for everyone’s baggage, putting me pulling into the driveway in Houston right about 2:15am Central time. If I would have taken the bump I would have missed my call, but then I probably would have been better rested and not come down with a cold, plus I would have had a $400 travel voucher. Oh well…

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August 13, 2007 - Posted by | Travel

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