Getting ‘bumped’ off a flight sucks. You arrive at the airport ready to go to your destination, only to discover you are not flying now, in fact, you might not be flying that day at all.
However, a small group of people has discovered a way to turn that disappointment into profit, making thousands of dollars a year.
How much can you earn being bumped?
In 2017, more than 4.1 billion passengers flew around the world. In the USA alone, 365,000 passengers were bumped from their first selected flight. Bumped in this context is when a passenger is asked to give up their seat for a priority passenger (either flight crew, VIP or an emergency). If no one volunteers, then the airline will choose a passenger either at random or with a systematic approach (for example, the passenger that paid the least for the flight). Passengers who are bumped are then compensated.
Because of some of the controversy in the past when some passengers have been bumped (Such as the Doctor David Dao on United Airways who was dragged off the plane so a flight attendant to get a lift), Airlines have now increased compensation from $400 per bump to over $10,000 (throwing in things like meals and hotel rooms as well!). Airlines have balanced this move by underbooking flights to ensure no one gets bumped, but when a flight is canceled it is almost guaranteed that someone will get a payday.
How can you get bumped as much as possible?
If this sounds appealing to you, there are a few things you need to know about how to get bumped and get compensated.
What are your rights?
You need to understand your rights as a passenger, depending on what country you are in. The general rule is if you are bumped from a flight, the airline is expected to at least rebook you on a later flight. Some areas of the world an airline is not required to compensate you if the next bookable flight is under two hours from your original departure time. In other locations, airlines are not required to give you accommodation if the next flight is the following day. Additionally, if the bump is due to weather or ‘unforeseen circumstances’ you might not be compensated at all (Which happened to hundreds of Norwegian passengers last year) You do, however, have every right to ask what your rights are before you accept the bump.
Ask for cash?
If you are offered compensation, it is likely that the airline will offer a voucher for use on their aircraft plus a rebook on a later flight. But in the US and some other countries, passengers are also welcomed to ask for cash. Cash compensation is generally far higher than the voucher and will still include the rebooked flight. If possible, always ensure that you ask for cash instead and reap the biggest possible reward. However, if you do take the airline voucher, be sure to look at the expiry date. They have been known to expire within as short as six months from issue.
Which airline to fly on?
As we mentioned before, most airlines are underbooking flights to ensure that they are not accidentally bumping passengers. Most airlines. If you fly on the few that are still overbooking you have a much greater chance of being bumped. Delta is the most likely airline that you will be bumped on, followed by United and Southwest. Hawaiian and Jetblue underbook and you are very unlikely to be bumped on that flight.
When to fly?
You will also need to consider what time of year you are flying. If you are flying during Christmas for example, when air travel is at its highest, then you are far more likely to be bumped. Additionally, Monday morning and Friday night are popular with business travelers and it is likely you might be the shove if a VIP wants to fly. You can also look up the flight online when booking and see how many seats are left. If there are many, it is unlikely you will be bumped, but if it is almost full then the odds go right up.
Naturally, flights that are once a day or once a week (with no alternatives) are almost guaranteeing to be bumping passengers.
How to encourage you to get bumped
You have found the perfect flight. It is full, at peak season on a Friday night. So, how do you get bumped? First, arrive early and ensure that you are checked in. If you are one of the latest people to check in you might find yourself rescheduled but with far less compensation. Additionally, if you fly without baggage and alone, you will be far more flexible and attractive to be bumped. You must be at the gate, and then tell the flight stewards that you are willing to be bumped if the flight becomes too full.
Next, when they realize that their flight is too full, they will start to ask passengers to volunteer. The first offer will be very low and whilst any passenger might accept it, it is better to see what their biggers offers will be. Don’t be greedy, however, as another passenger may decide they want the money and will accept.
If you are lucky and do accept, you should ask for as much as possible. If the flight is the next day, as for a hotel, taxi to and from, lounge passes and food. You might even be able to ask for an upgrade on your next flight.
To take it to the next level, try to get bumped on multiple flights on the same day. A 10 AM booking might shift to 12 PM, to 2 PM and onwards. Each flight will offer compensation and you could make serious money.
Or you could fly to your original destination like you originally planned.
Have you tried these tactics? Let us know in the comments what you think. If you know someone who should try this, share them our article!