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Bad news turns into good news once you realize you can get paid to get bumped from a flight.
Yes, some people are making serious bank by getting bumped with payouts totaling thousands. How are they doing it?
First, you need flexibility and freedom. Trying to make money by getting bumped on your way to an important conference, work event or family wedding can quickly turn into a case of “be careful what you wish for” if you end up stranded while the festivities go off without you. Let’s talk exclusively about perfecting the skill of getting paid to chill when you have time to kill.
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In this post you'll learn:
The Criteria for Getting Paid for Getting Bumped
It’s important to know the difference between “paying” bumps and “non-paying” bumps. Getting paid means qualifying for something called involuntary denied boarding compensation after an airline has asked you to give up your seat on an oversold flight. Here’s what’s needed:
- You have a confirmed reservation.
- You checked in for your flight on time.
- You showed up for your departure gate on time.
- The airline is incapable of getting you to your destination within an hour of your flight’s scheduled arrival time.
It’s equally as important to know when you’ll be barking up the wrong tree when you ask for compensation after getting bumped. Not every flight hiccup means a payout is coming. Here are the scenarios where you won’t quality for payment:
- Your airline had to substitute an aircraft due to some type of operational or safety reason.
- You were bumped due to weight or balance restrictions.
- You were downgraded to a lower seating class. While you won’t get special compensation, you will at least get a refund for the price difference.
- You were traveling on a charter flight that isn’t part of an airline’s regular schedule.
- You were traveling on an aircraft that maxes out at 30 passengers.
Next, take a look at the tips for increasing your odds of getting paid to get bumped. While these tips don’t offer any guarantee that a payday is coming your way, they will help to boost your chances of getting cash in exchange for a little inconvenience. Let’s power through some bump-worthy tips.
Tip #1: Fly With the Airlines That Are Notorious for Bumping Passengers
The Bureau of Transportation really does most of the hard work for you on this one.
You can look up data on “denied confirmed space” for all major carriers for the most recent year reported to see exactly where airlines stand with miscalculating room to sit.
Here’s a look at how involuntary denied boardings looked in 2020 for the five worst “offenders:
- 1. Frontier Airlines: 6.28 bumps per 10,000 passengers.
- 2. Spirit Airlines: 5.57 bumps per 10,000 passengers.
- 3. Alaska: 2.30 bumps per 10,000 passengers.
- 4. PSA Airlines: 2.29 bumps per 10,000 passengers.
- 5. American Airlines 1.95 bumps per 10,000 passengers.
It also helps to know about the “winners” for keeping passengers in their seats to avoid if you’re trying to cash in on getting bumped out.
Delta airlines actually does the best for getting you where you’re going without getting bumped by bumping just 0.02 per 10,000 passengers. Endeavor, United, and JetBlue also barely bump.
Tip #2: Make It Easier to Say “Yes” to the Bump by Clinging to Your Luggage
Checking your luggage removes some of that flexibility that’s needed for jumping at the chance for a payout by getting out.
Get in the habit of living with a carry-on bag if you’re flying with a cashing-out perspective. Of course, it’s easier to stick with this one if you’re flying on an airline that doesn’t provide a free checked bag.
Tip #3: Ask for Cash Because Cash Is Your Right
Very few airline passengers know this.
Let a woman named Allison Preiss be your inspiration for never settling for anything less than cash when you’re offered compensation from an airline.
Allison Preiss made headlines in 2018 when she was given a $10,000 voucher from United Airlines after turning down a $2,000 voucher that was offered to her after getting bumped from her flight. However, Preiss only got the $10,000 voucher because she asked for cash when she turned down the $2,000 flight voucher.
Preiss was the rare passenger who actually knew that she was entitled to ask for cash under federal law. The amount she was entitled to for this flight was around $650. Uneager to part with the cash value, United came back to her with an offer for a $10,000 travel voucher that represented the maximum payable amount under United’s compensation policy. The bottom line is that you can’t lose by asking for cash. There’s a good chance you’ll end up with a bigger voucher even if you aren’t wowed by the cash amount.
Tip #4: Relax by the Gate
Fortune favors the alert when it comes to getting bumped for money. Gate agents often make announcements for passengers willing to be voluntarily bumped once it’s determined that a flight is overbooked. You’ll only hear the offer if you’re located close enough to the gate to pay attention. Get in the habit of hanging out close enough to be seen if you want to throw your hand up to volunteer.
Tip #5: Remember That You Don’t Have to Be Sneaky About Your Intentions
There’s actually nothing stopping you from simply walking up to gate agents to let them know that you’re happy to be bumped if the need arises.
This may actually prevent the need for them to get on the microphone to open up the offer to others. While volunteering doesn’t mean your flight will actually be oversold, you can relax a bit knowing that you don’t have to be on high alert to be first in line if an announcement is made.
Tip #6: Fly at Bump-Friendly Times
When you fly can actually determine your chances of being bumped from your flight. The big bump days are holiday travel days. You can use this to your advantage if you’re flying for a casual getaway around Thanksgiving or Christmas instead of making the rush to family gatherings like 90 percent of the travelers around you.
Mondays and Fridays are also big days for getting bumped because those are big days for business travel. Travelers getting places on Mondays and Fridays may also be trying to squeeze in weekend getaways that leave no wiggle room for getting to their destinations late. That makes you a prime candidate for being the only bump-worthy passenger on a flight if you’re not eager to get back to the grind.
Lastly, once-daily and once-weekly flights without good alternatives are treasure troves for passengers wanting to get bumped.
Tip #7: Always Check Seat Availability Before Booking
If you’re flying to get bumped, this last tip is major. You can look up how full a flight is online before you book your seat. If it looks like a flight is filling up quickly, this could be a hot one to grab. You might even want to get in the habit of booking at the last minute for this reason. A flight that’s practically empty just before departure day doesn’t offer great chances for being bumped.
Final Thoughts on Getting Bumped From a Flight to Make Money
It’s important to go in with the mindset that there’s no sure thing when it comes to being asked to give up your seat. You should also remember that speaking with a gate agent once is enough. There’s no need to hover by the gate to try to get the inside scoop on overbooked flights. Gate agents have enough to worry about without managing expectations for payouts. The bottom line is that you should have fun with it. Just make sure you’re familiar with things like blackout dates and expiration dates before you agree to a new flight because there’s no “undoing the offer” once you give up your seat.
About the Author:
Adam Luehrs is based in California. He enjoys traveling to new places (preferably on his company's dime!) and hiking around the mountains of San Diego. He is a financial writer and contributor to FlyerGeek, FlyerTalk, and DoughRoller, among others.