With new DOT rules soon coming into force, reports are surfacing that UA is increasing Volunteer Denied Boarding (VDB) compensation on domestic flights from the current $400 level to $650 (in travel credits). That makes bumps even more lucrative than before and will likely make them even more competitive in the future. Blogger Rick Ingersoll offered the following tips to a South Carolina newspaper on maximizing your chances for a bump that merit repeating:
1. Arrive at the gate one hour and 15 minutes before the flight is scheduled to leave, to either volunteer or confirm you are already first on the list.
2. Volunteer for all segments of your flight, including layovers, at the first ticket counter of the day. “United will let me do it,” he noted. “Other airlines may not. But it’s worth asking.”
3. Use carry-on luggage only. “Airline personnel do not want to have to hunt down your luggage,” he said. “If someone else with carry-on only volunteers, he or she is more likely to get the bump and the compensation.” Ingersoll says he’s even gotten his wife to travel anywhere and everywhere with nothing more than carry-on luggage “so we’re always ready to take advantage of a bump.”
4. If you’re traveling with more than one in your party, be willing to split up in case the airline only needs one volunteer.
5. Know your alternative routings so you can help the agent in the event the airline needs your seat. “Show them you are the easiest to deal with. Have available flight options that will work for you,” he said.
6. Never fully commit until you know which flight you will be confirmed on and the amount and type of compensation. “Don’t assume you’ll get the compensation just because you volunteer,” he said. “Make sure they’ll provide it first. And don’t forget to ask for an upgrade to first class as part of the compensation.”
7. Volunteer for every flight, every day that you fly. “Even if the seat maps show plenty of seats, you have no idea if a previous flight has been canceled, or if weight restrictions have been placed on the flight, meaning fewer people get to board,” he said. “I always check the seat counter and the airlines’ website’s seat map before going to the airport just to confirm my best prospects.”
Rick’s suggestions are all spot-on and are all steps that I follow when I am traveling by air. His tips above and my own experience is clustered around United Airlines, but the advice above can be applied to bump situations across the airline spectrum.
Lufthansa, for example, takes great pride in calculating loads correctly and often will hold off until the last possible minute to make requests for volunteers. By asking at the gate prior to departure, you have a better shot at scoring the bump. Always ask–even if the flight looks empty.
I’ve got a few flights coming up this week and look at it this way: one bump will almost pay for a trip from Frankfurt back to California. That’s huge. As airline ticket prices continue to increase, consider adding in a little more padding to your schedule to take advantage of what is becoming an increasingly lucrative opportunity.