Anyone who has ever flown has probably heard those dreaded words come over the intercom. No, not that your flight is delayed—as dreaded as those words are—but rather that your flight is overbooked. What follows are passengers being either voluntarily or involuntarily bumped from the flight they were originally confirmed on.
But how do you avoid being bumped, or when you do get bumped, what should you do? Well today, I’m coming to you with tips on how to avoid getting bumped, as well as with information on what to do when you are bumped from your flight.
How to Avoid Getting Bumped
Avoid Peak Travel Times
Simply put, there isn’t a trick to avoid getting bumped from a flight. However, your best chance of avoiding it is by flying during non-peak travel times, since overbooking typically happens during peak travel days, such as weekends and holidays. While there are no guarantees, flying first thing on a Wednesday or Thursday morning will greatly decrease your likelihood of getting bumped.
Fly Airlines That Don’t Overbook
As easy as it may sound, simply avoiding airlines that frequently overbook is perhaps the easiest solution to avoid getting bumped. To find out that information, visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) website, which regularly has updated statistics about the airlines that overbook the most. Or simply fly JetBlue, which has a “no overbooking” policy.
Check in as Early as Possible
Lastly, you can decrease your chances of getting bumped from a flight by checking in online as early as possible. TripIt Pro’s check-in reminders can help you stay on top of your game. Passengers who haven’t checked in by boarding time, are often the first to lose seats on an overbooked flight. Thus, checking in early helps solve this, even more so if you have loyalty status with an airline.
What to Do When You Get Bumped
Know Your Rights
First and foremost, you should know your rights when you are bumped. And this should come in the form of a written statement, which the airlines are required by the USDOT to present to passengers who are bumped. This will explain overbooking and why you were bumped, as well as include other information about what you’re entitled to.
Ask for Cash
While airlines often offer vouchers or a ticket for a future flight when you’re bumped, I recommend insisting on cash. This can be up to several hundred dollars on domestic flights and more than one thousand dollars on international flights. You can then use that money as you see fit without any restrictions.
But Accept a Flight Voucher If That’s the Best Option
Nonetheless, depending on the circumstances, a flight voucher may be your only option, which can be as little as a couple hundred dollars on domestic flights (but up to several hundred dollars) or more than one thousand dollars on an international flight. The downside being that to use the flight voucher, you’ll have to call to book, and you’ll be subject to restrictions and blackout dates.
Confirm Your Next Flight Out
Most importantly, however, is making sure that when you’ve been bumped from a flight, that you’re immediately confirmed on a flight out. This is typically done automatically, but since you’ll be taking a later flight, you may need to change your itinerary. If a number of passengers have been bumped and there’s a line, then you may want to call the customer service line of your airline to expedite the process.
Ask for Food, Transportation and Hotel Vouchers
This is important if you’re going to be stuck at the airport for a few hours (if not longer), or if your connecting flight requires a long layover, or worse, requires spending the night somewhere that’s not your intended destination. If this happens, you’re entitled to food, transportation and hotel vouchers. Even if it’s just for a couple of hours, ask about things like food vouchers, and even a voucher for the airline’s lounge.
Volunteer to Be Bumped
Lastly, some people, who have the time, actually want to be bumped. Which if that’s the case, when you arrive to your gate, asked to be put on a volunteer list. Then, if the flight is overbooked, you’ll be one of the first to be called on to take a later flight. Your fellow passengers will thank you and you might make some money off of the deal.
Spencer is a seasoned food, drink, and travel writer who has written for publications from Outside Magazine to Travel + Leisure and Los Angeles Times. When he’s not traveling, he’s perfecting his favorite cocktails in his home bar. He chronicles his adventures (and cocktails) on his travel site, Whiskey Tango Globetrot.