Sitting in the airport ready to take off on an amazing adventure or head home after one is exhilarating. Hearing the airline you’re using call for volunteers to forgo their seat on their upcoming flight is a bit disheartening. The plane is overbooked, and someone isn’t going to get to go home or on to their next exciting destination. Some passengers have somewhere to be right away, such as a wedding or a funeral that won’t wait on them. Others have a little more flexibility with their travel plans, and it might mean considering another flight at a later time or date. Is it really worth it to forgo your flight to allow someone else to fly?
Why Do Airlines Need Volunteers to Bump?
Airlines tend to overbook their flights, and they do it on purpose. It might not make much sense, but it’s a gamble airlines are willing to take. Approximately 15% of people who book their flights never show up to take a seat, and airlines don’t want to waste even one seat. They bank on the fact that at least a few people won’t make their flight and they can accommodate everyone they allowed to book a seat. When they gamble incorrectly, they have more passengers than seats. Now they need people to step up and offer to board another flight so they can accommodate everyone.
The Perks of Volunteering to be Bumped
If you are someone who has the time to spare, you might consider volunteering your seat. It turns out most airlines offer great incentives to those who offer up their seats. Depending on the flight, the airline, and the need for volunteers, most airlines are willing to offer some of the following:
– Hotel rooms
– Free flights
– Free upgrades
– Airline lounge access
You’ll be automatically booked on another flight, plus you’ll receive at least one of those incentives. Some people are able to get more for volunteering if the next flight is a bit inconvenient, such as one that doesn’t depart until the following day, one that departs exceptionally late, or if your original flight was nonstop and now you have a layover somewhere. Many people can earn as much money volunteering their airline seats as they can applying for a title loan they have to pay back.
Should I Volunteer?
No one can answer this question for you. You know your schedule, you know how patient you are, and you know how badly you want to get where you’re going. If you can wait a while, if you have no rush to get to your intended destination, or if you are patient enough to wait, you can benefit significantly. However, there are a few considerations to make before you jump up to volunteer.
– Did you check luggage? People who check luggage are often inconvenienced in volunteering for a new flight since they do want their belongings. Airline agents are also less likely to choose a volunteer who checked bags over one who didn’t, because it’s easier for them.
– Are you a good negotiator? It turns out that DOT rules require all airlines offer passengers who volunteer to bump their flight up to $1,300. This means you should negotiate. The airline doesn’t want to give you cash, but they’re usually more willing to offer free upgrades, flights, and even lounge access. The worst they can say is no, and you don’t know until you ask.
– Can you wait? Before you allow the idea of a free flight, some first grade seats, and an airline lounge access pass cloud your better judgement, ask yourself if you can really afford to wait. Are you traveling with small kids who want to go home and won’t do well waiting longer? Do you have to be somewhere by a specific time to make it to an event? If you say yes to any of those questions, it’s just not your time to volunteer to be re-booked on another flight.
Is it Worth It?
Generally speaking, it’s worth it to volunteer to take another flight. You’ll end up compensated more than you originally paid, you’ll still get to go home, and you’ll end up enjoying yourself more. This only applies if you don’t have kids with you, if you have the time, and if you are sure you can handle the inconvenience.
If you’re volunteering your seat on the last flight out, be sure the flight on which you’re booked is a convenient one for you. You don’t want to end up booked off a 9 pm flight, shuttled to a hotel a half hour from the hotel, and then have to be back 2 hours before your 5 am flight the next morning. It’s not convenient, and it’s just annoying.
Scoring a chance to volunteer for a new flight is a big deal to many people, and some people make a habit of doing this. If you can negotiate terms to your benefit, you can score several perks when it’s time to book a new flight. Don’t let your fear or nerves get in your way. Stand up, say you’ll volunteer, and see what you can get. You can always decline the offer if it’s not to your standards. The airline might just make it a point to give you want you want if you walk away. It’s worth it to volunteer, but only if you’re willing to play hardball with the airline in question.