The Bump

At times, flying for free just isn’t enough for the insatiable soul of the wanderluster.  We want more than to fly for free… we also want to earn even more frequent flyer miles while we indulge in complimentary travel.  Yet, as exhilarating as it is, redeeming frequent flyer award tickets precludes us from such joy.

Enter, “the bump.” “The bump,” as it is known, is the wanderluster version of good fortune  – the epitome of serendipity.  In their zeal to keep load rates high, airlines overbook flights with the expectation that a small percentage of travelers will fail to arrive in time for boarding.   When the airline finds itself in this peculiar situation, they solicit passengers to volunteer to have their flight re-routed.  In exchange for what will range from a mild inconvenience to a major flight-overhaul, the airlines offer their profuse apology in the form of a travel voucher – generally somewhere around $400, depending on the routing.  And here’s the kicker – when you redeem that voucher, (hopefully to a destination that’s pronounced with a Spanish accent)  you’ll earn even more FF mileage.

As someone who ranks $400 in free travel as euphoric on the ecstacy scale, I jump, nay, leap at the opportunity.  In fact, I’ve learned to pre-position myself when I’m aware of an overbooked situation, the same way an NBA forward blocks out for a rebound.  I want to be absolutely sure that I’m the first one in line when they start asking for volunteers.  Yet, you’d be surprised how little attention these offers get.  Few travelers seize the opportunity, but that’s because they don’t find what they’re not looking for.

I’ll summarize with a few key bits of advice on how to ready yourself for “the bump:”

  • Book your travel with some degree of flexibility.  If two flight options are available to your destination, opt for the earlier one, so that if you do find yourself in a position to take the bump, there’s another flight soon to minimize your inconvenience.
  • Arrive at the gate early enough to gauge the situation.
  • Be aware of opportunities.  When you arrive at the gate, courteously ask how full the flight is.  If they tell you it’s booked full, or that it’s overbooked, you may even want to volunteer at that point.  If that’s not an option, proceed to the next step.
  • Analyze your competition, is there anyone around who has a scraggly beard and more than 60 tattered patches of flags from various countries sewn on to their backpack prowling around the gate? If so, lock eyes with them, give them the alpha-male growl, and let them know there’s no way they’re going to beat you to the punch.
  • Once they announce that they’re looking for volunteers, take long strides to the desk and present yourself… your time has arrived.
  • Don’t be content with the measly voucher… if your inconvenienced overnight, they owe you a hotel, too.  And if they owe you a hotel, they owe you a dinner voucher, too.  And you prefer to fly First-Class, don’t you?  After all, they are at your mercy.
  • Last of all, please share your story with us.  We all need inspiration.  I have a few of these already which will come in future blog posts.

Wanderlust with us.

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4 Responses to The Bump

  1. Pingback: Secondhand Vouchers: A garage sale for airline flights |

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