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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.