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Would You Get Bumped?

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If it meant getting some extra cash and FREE meal vouchers, would you be willing to change flights last minute?

family at the airport

Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: We just had a lovely spring break in the South. We spent a couple of days on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, toured around Savannah, Georgia, and finished up with some time with my in-laws just outside of Orlando, Florida. We had a crazy-early flight back, though. We got up at 5 AM for the 7 AM departure. It was a nonstop flight and would get us back in plenty of time to do some laundry, get my 7-year-old to his Little League game and generally let us get ready to get back to school and work the next day.

While we were waiting to board, though, we found that the flight had been overbooked and that the airline was offering vouchers to those willing to get on a later flight. The airline would also give vouchers for meals for the day. I went up to the counter, thinking they probably just needed a seat or two and wouldn't be interested in a family of five. Turns out, they needed just five seats more, and they were very interested -- interested enough to offer $600 vouchers! But they couldn't get us on a plane until later -- much later. The flight they would put us on wasn't a nonstop, and it wouldn't land until 11:30 PM. That meant we probably wouldn't get home until after one in the morning. I was all for it.

So we'd miss the game. We would rent a car for the day and do something fun in Orlando. I knew the coaches would understand. (I'm the team mom, and heck, I'd get really nice coaches' presents at the end of the season!) Sure, the kids would be tired -- but they could sleep on the plane.

For those of you willing to get bumped on flights, I have this advice: 1) Be flexible -- and maybe even plan to come back a day before you absolutely have to. 2) I hear that early-morning flights are the most popular, and therefore the most likely to be oversold. 3) Don't forget to negotiate: The vouchers we were offered started at $400 and went up to $600. 4) If you're not getting on a flight for a while, make sure to request meal vouchers and (if you need to stay overnight) a hotel voucher.

I have always been able to switch gears at a moment's notice. Some might call that impulsive, but I prefer the word "flexible."  Whatever it is, my husband isn't quite the same way. He had an early meeting in the morning, and a rough week ahead. I knew it might be a tough 24 hours, but for $3,000 -- $3,000!! -- I was willing to risk it. He wasn't, though -- and there are things worth more than money. Staying married is one of them.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Angela April 15, 2010, 8:09 PM

I’ve done it before but only traveling solo. Don’t know if I’d do it if the family was involved.

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