Sothwest Airlines “Bumping” Success

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Last week I was flying to Chicago on Southwest, and as always, I looked up the seat availability that morning. I noticed that the flight was sold out and got really excited. It was a perfect opportunity to volunteer for a bump. I had plenty of time before my work dinner that evening and was in no rush to get to Chicago. Essentially, it was between spending more time in the airport doing work or sitting in my hotel room completing the same work, no difference to me.

I grew up learning the lay of the land in regards to bumping. My parents would book their flights based on high chances with getting bumped and volunteer every opportunity they had. They would remind me that this was the way we would be able to go on vacation the following year. My siblings and I always thought it was a fun game and would get excited as well. On every trip, we would check our luggage (since at that time it was free!) and then pack a “bumping bag.” This was our carry on bag with an extra set of clothes for a family of five in the chance we ended up sleeping over at an airport hotel. We have some great family stories from getting bumped, starting with a three day fiasco getting to our cruise in Miami and sleeping in a run down college hotel in Boston. I will save that story for a blog post another time, my dad tells it the best!

So back to my personal bumping story of last week… I went up to the front desk attendant and asked her if the flight was overbooked, and if so, I would like to be put on the volunteer last. While she wasn’t 100% certain at the time, she said there was a good chance and to stand by. As the plane was boarding, she called my name and needed my seat, wahooo! Unlike other airlines, Southwest has a very cut and dry policy with compensating volunteers. If they can get you to your final destination within 2 hours of your originally scheduled arrival time, they will compensate you the amount you paid for your one-way ticket + $100. If the arrival time is more than 2 hours of your originally scheduled arrival time, they will compensate you the amount you paid for your one-way ticket + $300. If you used a free ticket with points or a companion ticket, you will receive either the $100 or $300 amount, as there is no value for your ticket. This compensation comes in the form of a LUV voucher with a one-year expiration.

Some things to keep in mind when volunteering to get bumped:

  • You might not board with the rest of the passengers, and if they do not need you, you might not get the seat you desire (since Southwest is open seating); also, overhead luggage space might be limited at that points.
  • Ask what other flights are available. You might think they can just put you on the next available flight without realizing that that one is oversold as well. Make sure that the flight that can put you on works with your schedule.
  • With other airlines that do not have a cut and dry compensation system, make sure to ask the compensation in advance. If it is a little amount, you might realize it is not worth it to you.

Comments

  1. We got bumped on Airtran from Mem to Orlando back in February of 2009. The ticket cost for TWO was only $250.00 for that flight. Since then we used the first bump from Mem to Seattle and back (over booked), from Mem to Seattle and back again (over booked and turned down two more the same day, tired and wanted to get home) and just used them for the last time from Mem to Orlando for our 25th anniversary. Tried to time those but two out of four flights the plane was at the max. no such luck. FYI, These overbooks were only from the flights from Atlanta to Mem. A one hour flight. Thanks Airtran!!!

  2. I can’t rememeber the last time I paid for ticket not using using money from bumps. I had two days last year where I earned over 1K from DL a day šŸ™‚

    Day 1 $300 $400 $400
    Day 2 $600 $400

  3. HAHA! I get such weird/excited feeling about a day before my fligts. Checking KVS/Seat Maps/Upgrade and Waitlists NON stop. My friends didn’t believe the things I pull off until the last trip when we came back from Vegas together.

  4. I think that Southwest’s policy is among the more weak options of the major carriers. Obviously, it works for them, but you can get better bump “deals” from other carriers.

    In particular, the fact that Southwest values their award tickets as zero dollars is pretty poor. The $300 voucher for a 2+ hour delay is reasonable, but it is pretty much where other carriers START their compensation.

    • @YourFoundSherpa – It really depends, I ended up getting $250, which is typically the most that American Eagle will give. I’ve had airline agents not budge over $200 at times. It also depends on the carrier, Delta, for example, is typically really good with their compensation, where American Airlines is pretty poor.

  5. Southwest does not value their free tix as zero. They do value them at 100.00. You’ll get 100.00 plus the value tied to the delay.

  6. @YourFoundSherpa – It depends on the value perception. If the ticket costs more on a legacy carrier to buy in the first place versus a low cost carrier the $ amt of compensation is relative to what you can buy. What I mean for example with SWA is that their full price tickets are where many other carriers START their fares at and you can book with the voucher on a promotional fare or the Wanna get a way fares.

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