Budget travel and free flights – how to get yourself bumped

One of the most popular strategies for budget traveling is to make what is traditionally one of the most expensive parts of travel – the airfare – free.  One great way to score free flights without tediously collecting frequent flier miles is to get yourself bumped off of the flight on which you are booked.  While getting bumped won’t make your current flight free, it will traditionally score you a free ticket you can use at a later date of your choosing.

Getting bumped is such a popular money saving strategy that there is a definite art and science behind it.  Remember that you may not be the only person on your flight hoping to get bumped.  It is important to follow the guidelines listed below to increase your chances.

  • Book your flight with the intention of getting bumped. For instance, you may want to choose one of the first flights of the day, knowing that you will be able to get on a later flight after you are bumped and still reach your destination.
  • Always ask if the flight is overbooked. It may be a good idea to call your travel agent the night before the scheduled flight to inquire.  Always ask the gate agent if the flight is overbooked as soon as you arrive and let him or her know you will volunteer to be bumped.
  • Always back a flight schedule for your departure and destination airport. Be sure to get a schedule that includes all airlines, not just the one on which you are booked.
  • Always arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes prior to scheduled departure. Try to be the first one in the check in line.  Being the first in line will ensure that you are the first on the list of volunteers to be bumped.
  • Before you agree to be bumped, be sure that the airline will offer a free ticket or other significant compensation. Individual airline policies vary, so be sure you know what is being offered.  Some airlines offer vouchers in $100 increments, according to the time you must wait for another flight.  For instance, a one hour wait entitles you to a $100 voucher, two hours means you get $200, etc.
  • Before accepting your free ticket or travel voucher, let the gate agent know that you need to be sure of your arrangements for your current flight. Always make sure you are holding a confirmed reservation and boarding pass for a later flight before signing the agreement and accepting the free ticket.
  • Tell the gate agent that you want a guaranteed, confirmed reservation on the next flight to your destination.
  • If there are no guaranteed seats available on the next flight, inform the agent that you want a guaranteed seat on another airline.
  • Use the flight schedule you packed to choose an alternative flight and airline.
  • If the wait for the next flight exceeds two hours, ask the gate agent for meal vouchers. Most airlines make these vouchers available, but they do not always offer them without being asked.
  • If you get bumped from your next flight, you could score another free ticket. It pays to be flexible any time you are flying on a budget.
  • Remember there are no hard and fast rules everyone must follow. There are some regulations, but each airline sets its own policy with regard to bumping policy and compensation.
  • The bumping rules are generally different for international flights, so be sure to ask the airline about their policies before volunteering.

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