Get Yourself Bumped From a Flight


Travel can often be a harrowing experience. No one wants to spend more time than they absolutely have to at the airport, right? But if you’ve got a little extra time (and especially if you’re traveling alone), giving up your seat in exchange for a later flight can come with some pretty serious perks. Because airlines routinely oversell the seats on planes to ensure a full flight, they will ask passengers if someone would be willing to give up their seats. For $200. Cash. If no one takes it, they might raise it, say, to $500. But if you know how to play your cards right you could have the cash, and maybe a meal or even an upgrade on the next flight. Here’s everything you need to know.

Do Your Research

You’ll want to find out if your upcoming flight is oversold. And as you can imagine, holidays and busy travel days such as Monday, Thursday and Friday are more likely to have oversold flights. But just because the seat map looks full, it doesn’t mean the flight is sold-out. Seat maps are not the best way to determine how full a flight is. The Points Guy recommends using a tool such as ExpertFlyer to see exactly how many seats are still available for sale. “A ‘Y0’ indicates that there are no economy-class seats available for sale,” he says. “And you have the potential for an overbooked flight.”

Away Carry-On Luggage

Hardcase carry-on luggage, $225 by Away

Away Carry-On Luggage

Hardcase carry-on luggage, $225 by Away

Pack Smart

If you can, don’t check any bags. Pack a carry-on with everything you need. That way, you’ve got all your stuff with you and you don’t have to worry about luggage arriving long before you do. (If you need to check bags, it’s not a huge deal—you just might have to claim them from the baggage office at your destination.)

Arrive Early

Go straight from security to your gate and if the gate agent is there, ask them if the flight is full. If so, let them know that you’re willing to volunteer. Agents are more likely to reroute solo travelers, especially those without checked bags or onward connections. Tell the gate agent that you will wait nearby—if you wander off to browse the Hudson News, the agent might look for another volunteer.

Know What to Ask for

You are, in fact, helping out the airline here. Which is why they’re offering you cash to give up your seat. But like any savvy negotiator, they’re not going to give you more than you ask for. Take the time to consider all options, including a confirmed upgrade on the next flight, or a cash voucher that can be applied toward meals, a free hotel stay or just access to the airline’s lounge to make the wait easier. You could even ask to be re-routed a longer way to rack up more miles through your flights.

Hang Onto Your
Boarding Pass …

… Until the oversell is finalized. When volunteering your seat, always make sure that your current seat does not get changed in the event that they don’t need volunteers after all. By handing over your boarding pass, you’re giving up your claim to that particular seat. And now your offer to be nice and give up your seat has resulted in a middle seat in the last row.


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