Traveling this summer is not fun. Airlines are delaying and canceling flights at a rate most of us have never seen. The lines for everything at the airport, from checking in for a flight, security checkpoints or just buying food before the flight are neverending. Even the last peaceful spot at the airport, the airline lounges, are packed with lines just to get in the door.
It’s gotten so bad that we’ve booked backup flights for several trips when we NEEDED to get home. Fortunately, we haven’t yet needed to use our backup plans, but it’s comforting to have alternatives when your original flight doesn’t pan out.
With so many flight disruptions, airlines are struggling to find ways to get people to their destinations. An easy way to relieve some pressure on the system is to have people change travel plans. The perfect storm for flight delays and cancellations has caused an increase in airlines offering voluntary bump vouchers. We’re not talking about $100 or $200 either. Stories of mega-bump vouchers worth $10,000 to $15,000 have gone viral in the last few months.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, Delta even made the unusual move of issuing a travel waiver, typically utilized during a weather event, to get people to change flights away from the busy weekend.
We usually don’t accept bump vouchers because we have plans at our destination and need to get back home at the end of a trip. We did accept an advance rebooking with American but found out that the vouchers weren’t as easy to use as they claimed.
Can You Use The Airlines Situation To Your Advantage?
I usually wouldn’t think about tricky ways to earn extra money for delays. However, a comment on our post about booking backup flights got me thinking. The original question was about how I booked the backup flight and not to lose money when not taking the flight. We used Southwest points, which are returned to your account if you cancel the flight up to 5 minutes before departure. However, any booking you can cancel without penalty, either with money or points, would be an acceptable backup plan.
If your flight is canceled or significantly delayed, you can get a refund (which is required, no matter how you paid for the ticket or whatever fare rules the airline has in place) and take your backup flight.
But what if your original flight is only oversold? There could be a situation where the airline may offer $500, $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000+ to take a later flight. Volunteer for the bump (Here are some tips about how to maximize your chances of getting compensation for a bumped flight) and if you’re rebooked on a flight later the same day or even the next day, use your alternate booking and cancel the flight onto which you were rebooked by the first airline.
The plan works out best if you’re able to get a full refund for the 1st flight. But even if you have to pay a cancellation fee or lose the entire fare, it could make sense if the compensation for the bump is high enough. This only makes sense if you have a backup flight booked, which would be because you needed to get to your destination that day.
A word of caution
Whenever you’re thinking about canceling a flight, be aware that if you miss a flight on an itinerary, the airline will cancel all subsequent flights. You can’t take advantage of this plan if you’re making a connection or if you booked a round-trip ticket (and this is anything but the last flight on the trip.) This is why I almost always book our flights as a series of one-ways and never as a round trip.
I usually don’t spend time thinking about maneuvers like this one. However, the convergence of already booking backup flights and the increased prevalence of high-value vouchers made it seem like the plan could work. I’m not sure about the rules for canceling a rebooked trip as we don’t take advantage of the voluntary bump vouchers.
Even if the opportunity presented itself, I’m unsure if I would take advantage. However, if the airline is offering $10,000 and I know I already have a backup plan, I’d probably give it a go.
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