I think that I have only gotten voluntarily bumped a few times. Once it was a flight out of Maine after a marathon and another time it was a flight to Chicago. The Chicago bump was a dangerous lesson because I almost missed a connecting flight to New Zealand! (see, We Got Bumped and Nearly Missed Our Dream Trip).
Fast forward to Thursday of last week. Dave and I were going to Scottsdale for my niece’s Bat Mitzvah. The events and festivities didn’t officially begin until Friday evening, but we were booked on a Thursday non-stop flight on American Airlines from New York JFK Airport to Phoenix Airport at 12:45 pm. I had booked our flights months in advance for 15,000 miles round trip per person. As the weeks and days before the trip grew closer, I noticed that the flight was very full. Frankly, it is hard to understand why American Airlines only flies 737s on this popular route.
When I checked in for the flight online, a message popped up asking if we were interested in compensation for traveling on a later flight, and if so, what was the minimum compensation we would agree to. The choice was $650, $850 or $1,050. I clicked on the $1,050. Having been down this road before, I was not optimistic that a bump would happen, or that, even if the opportunity existed, that we’d be able to get to PHX later that day or the following day. Did I mention that there was a storm forecasted for the next day?
We were waiting at the gate when I heard my name called. I’d forgotten about the volunteer list and was hoping that I had been upgraded to first class on the flight. The representative asked if we were still interested in the bump. She said that a number of passengers were needed due to a weight issue of the plane and that, even though I volunteered to receive $1,050, if our seats were needed, we would nevertheless receive the highest amount offered. She further stated that, if this happened, we’d be confirmed on the next non-stop flight that leaves JFK at 4:25 pm. We were told not to board the plane and to wait until boarding was complete before we would know if our seats were needed or not. In the interim time, I heard the airline agents continue to ask for volunteers, offering $1,200 and then $1,500.
The flight was fully boarded and we were informed that our seats were needed. It took some time, but we were each issued a new boarding pass for the next flight and an $1,800 voucher for use within the next year. We were shocked, and then thrilled but we contained our excitement until we safely arrived in Phoenix.
So, to sum up, for two tickets priced at 7,500 miles (and roughly $5 tax) each, we each received a voucher in the amount of $1,800 (or $3,600 together) and got to our destination four hours later!
I thought that this might be the highest compensation for a voluntary bump, but then I was reminded of the $4,500 compensation which Andy from Andy’s Travel Blog received from Delta for agreeing to fly to Iceland the day after his scheduled flight and Charlie Barkowski said he once received $2,000 to travel one day later.
(1) What is the most compensation you received (by voucher or cash payment) for a voluntary bump from a flight? and (2) how soon did the airline get you to your desired destination?