a group of different currency bills and coins

Now now- simmer down. We’re not suggesting you cause a stir, which creates such a scene that you’re forcibly dragged down the aisle. We’re purely talking about taking advantage of a system we did not create, which can be far more lucrative than any loyalty program on earth If you’d like to potentially earn $1000’s of dollars per year in travel credit, just for being “cool” about flexibility, tune in.

a dock leading to a body of water

No Guarantees

The first thing to know – is that there are no guarantees here. Even the best practices may fail, so it’s really not worth over paying (at least not any significant amount), just to attempt the bump. However, the best practices you’re about to learn should put you first in line to catch the next flight, in the likely event that yours is oversold.

Peak Days

Step one is focusing on routes and flights where important business travel is a major factor. Weekends are for leisure travelers, It’s the weekdays where you’ll find the least flexible travelers, when airlines need to accommodate them the most. Holidays are good too. Pick early morning flights, or second to last, last flight of the day situations where people have the greatest need.

Pro Tools

For $9.99 a month, which you can cancel at any time – anyone can check the inventory (seats left) for virtually any flight, using ExpertFlyer. This means you can see precisely how many seats are left on your flight, the next flight and every other flight. They also show upgrade options too. For someone really looking to cash in, this $9.99 can net $1000s in bump vouchers, helping to find the most prone flights. This is especially true if you study flights for a couple weeks, seeing which ones typically always sell out each week.

a close-up of a couple of suitcasesNo Bags

For optimal probability of being the lucky “we need a volunteer” person, being without bags is a deal breaker. It’s both time consuming and hard to offload a passenger with luggage, whereas someone with carry on only is an easy breeze. Whenever possible, travel without bags if you want the bump. And get a good carry on to make this feat easier.

No Stragglers

Now – the isn’t to say groups don’t get bumped. But often only one or two volunteers are needed. Being solo on a reservation instantly prioritizes you over most of the pack of would be “bumpertunists”. It’s been said that being last to check in can help the chances, but don’t go overboard here.

The List

Many airlines run a list of potential volunteers, should someone need to be bumped. Save the negotiations for game time, but be sure to get on the list – and get in early. Don’t be afraid to ask at check in if “any volunteers may be needed” and if the reply is “yes”, be sure to volunteer your services.

a group of currency bills and coinsFair Price

Now – if you’ve got places to go, it’s really gotta be worth your while, but if you don’t, anything is great. The minimum voucher amount is generally in the $300-$400 range, but it’s not at all uncommon for vouchers to exceed $1000, even for shorter flights. You still get a ride on the next available flight, but you’ll score significant credit towards future flights. One family successfully scored $11,000 in credit – and still made it to their destination on time. Turning a $150 ticket into $11,000 of travel, easily enough for multiple business class tickets, virtually anywhere in the world is hard to argue with.

Next Flight

The funny thing here is that in many (but not all) occasions, you’ll be accommodated on the next flight, or the one after that. Sometimes they’ll even throw in an upgrade, just for being an all around agreeable and easy human being. You don’t know joy until you get a big fat voucher, and still make it to your destination within hours of the original time!

Final Thoughts

This really is a thing. Airlines oversell flights for a variety of reasons, entirely in their control. If you have flexibility and a desire to earn free travel – there’s nothing wrong with playing the game. Free vacations are the best vacations, especially when the champagne arrives – and you’re laying flat in a business or first class bed! Cheers to the bump. It’s not so bad, after all.

Have you taken advantage of a bump? Share your success stories below.


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...