My first trip on an airplane was a three point trip with my dad and one of my brothers.  We flew from Buffalo to Los Angeles to Seattle and back for a total of $287 each.  We had a layover in San Francisco on our leg between LA and Seattle.  That’s where I learned the art of bumping.

When we arrived at our gate for a 9:30 AM flight in San Francisco my dad let the gate agent know that if she needed volunteers to be bumped we were willing.  And it turned out, she did need volunteers.  For giving up our seats, we were each given a guaranteed seat on a 12:30 PM flight and a $150 travel voucher which could be used for a future flight (this was a long time ago, typical bumps are worth around $400 now).  Right after our initial flight left, she called my dad up and said that she could get us on an earlier flight.  So she gave us new boarding passes for the flight which was scheduled to leave at 10:30 AM.  We settled in to wait for the flight.  A short while later, she called my dad back up and let him know that the flight we had been rebooked on was now oversold.  She offered us another $150 travel voucher each and a guaranteed seat on the 12:30 PM.  We of course took it and did end up taking that flight.  We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to get $300 each in travel vouchers for flights that only cost us $287.

Here are a few tips if you want to try to get bumped:

  • Get to the airport early so you have a better chance of being near the top of the bump list.
  • Don’t wait for them to ask for volunteers; let the gate agent know that you are willing to be bumped.
  • Travel during busy times.  This depends on the location.  If you’re traveling to business locations, Mondays and Fridays are going to be busy.  If you’re traveling to vacation destination, weekends are the busiest.
  • Be nice to the gate agent.  Depending on how long it is to your next flight, you can ask for meal coupons, a flight upgrade, or hotel accommodations.
  • Don’t check baggage.  It makes transferring you to another flight easier because they don’t need to worry about moving your bags.

Scoring bumps can pay for future vacations.  It’s also a great way for people to get started in the travel game, especially if they are not interested in doing the credit card game.  There are people who spend weekends flying around the country with the sole intent of collecting vouchers from bumps.


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