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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free travel vouchers: Share your seat for a treat

By Derek Brown

Volunteer your seat on an oversold flight for an airline voucher. Credit: Pylon757.

We all know that planes are packed, and the airlines need a little help when they overbook a flight. The solution: Make this summer vacation pay for your next airline ticket with a volunteer bump. The process — which works by volunteering to give up your seat in exchange for a later flight and travel voucher — can be especially fruitful during the busy summer travel season.

I got $400 for volunteering to spend an extra night with a friend in New York City.  That voucher paid for two more plane tickets.

Do the math: I spent $200 and flew three flights.

Here are a few suggestions to help your volunteer bump payout:

  • Ask the gate agent if they need volunteers.  If so, how much are they willing to pay?  It’s negotiable, and the payout can increase if people don’t take the bait.
  • Know the later flight options and confirm when your new flight will depart.
  • Some airlines offer round-trip tickets as incentive but those tend to have restrictions.  Try to negotiate for a voucher.

If you’re really lucky the free flight could need volunteers, too, and then it’s time to volunteer again.

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When Derek Brown, the newest member to the Orbitz content team, isn’t jetting around the country or exploring cities like Shanghai, he’s at home in Andersonville, a charming North Side neighborhood in Chicago.

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