How To Get More Money Out of Getting Bumped from Your Flight
More flights are getting overbooked. Here’s how you can work that to your advantage.
Just because you've got a ticket doesn't mean your seat on a plane is guaranteed—as anyone who has been subjected to getting bumped off their flight understands all too well.
Airlines overbooking flights is a common industry practice: An airline will oversell tickets on a flight to avoid empty seats in the event that passengers don't show up or change their plans. That trend picked up steam during the pandemic, with more and more flights getting overbooked. Bounce, a company specializing in luggage storage, conducted a study on the subject and found that Endeavor Air, owned by Delta Air Lines, bumped more passengers than any other major U.S. airline—as many as 12.86 people for every 10,000 enplaned passengers, or 4,270 bumped passengers, from April to June 2022.
But the good news is that if your travel plans are flexible and you have some extra patience, you can actually make money out of the ordeal. One travel-savvy TikToker shared some tips on how to get even more money out of getting bumped from your flight.
If a flight is fully booked, it's up to the airline to figure out who comes on and who might need to be rebooked on a later flight. Usually gate agents will ask if there are any volunteers willing to give up their seats for a rebooked flight and a voucher to compensate for the inconvenience.
"Don't accept the first offer," says TikTok user @addison.jarman. "They'll keep increasing the amount until they get enough volunteers."
Holding out could mean the difference between a $200 flight voucher and a $400 flight voucher according to a short video she created—so don't raise your hand until the amount hits its limit.
She also included a tip about how airline travelers should handle an involuntary bump, which can occur when an overbooked flight receives no volunteers.
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"The Department of Transportation rules say that I'm entitled to as much as $1,300 in cash," @addison.jarman explains, after her pretend gate agent involuntarily bumps her from the flight.
Airlines may offer bumped guests flight vouchers and hotel stays to smooth things over, but the TikTok tips are sound. According to the website for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), "Passengers who are denied boarding involuntarily due to oversales are entitled to compensation that is based on the price of their ticket, the length of time that they are delayed in getting to their destination because of being denied boarding."
The DOT also has explicit definitions of what counts as a legitimate reason you'd be bumped from your flight, as well as reasons you could be removed from your flight and not be eligible for compensation.
Getting kicked off your flight for being an unruly passenger, for example, entitles you to nothing but a hard time. "No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember's duties aboard an aircraft being operated," the DOT adds.
However, if you're not causing disruptions, the amount that a passenger can claim is also dependent on whether the flight is a domestic or an international flight leaving from the United States. Airlines typically cap their compensation at $775 for short delays (usually one to two hours for domestic flights or one to four hours for international flights), and up to $1,550 for longer delays (usually over two hours for domestic flights and over four hours for international flights), according to the DOT.
If you're still opposed to the idea of getting bumped from your flight, know that a group of senators are pushing a "passenger bill of rights." It would require airlines to pay passengers at least $1,350 if they're denied boarding because of an oversold flight without all the negotiating at the gate.