In recent years, airline companies have taken many hits. Immediately following the September 11th attacks, many Americans were reluctant to fly. Then, came the high gas prices. Airline companies were and still are losing money at an alarming rate. Not only have they increased fares, but many companies have altered their business structure too. Now, you are likely to find fewer flights. Unfortunately, fewer flights often lead to overbooking. If you find yourself on an overbooked flight, you can use the situation to your advantage. You can use it to get a free upgrade to first class.
The first step in benefiting from an airline overbooking a flight is to arrive at the airport early. Immediately before a flight, the terminal is full and loaded with fliers. You want to arrive early and get a good seat. Position yourself near the ticket counter. Keep your eyes and ears open. If you hear an airline attendant mentioning that the flight has been overbooked, pounce. You do not have to wait to be approached, as you may never be. Approach the attendant and state you couldn’t help but overhear. Say you are not on a travel deadline and can take a later flight, but that you would like compensation for the delay and extra airport wait. State you will accept compensation in the form of a first-class upgrade. As long as the next available flight is not overbooked, most will accept your offer.
Why would an airline accept your offer to be bumped from your flight for an upgrade to first class? They do so because you are a willing participant. When a flight is overbooked, airline representatives must find and convince passengers to stay off the plane. If this cannot be done, they just start bumping. Commonly, travelers flying alone and those last in line get bumped. This does not settle well with most. You may be traveling to visit friends and family back in your hometown, but another traveler may be traveling to visit a dying relative or must attend an important business meeting. If these individuals are bumped, they are likely to cause a huge scene, one that airlines want to avoid at all costs.
If you are too shy to approach an airline representative and basically admit you were eavesdropping on their conversation, wait until an announcement is made. Once again, still arrive at the airport early. You want to be near the ticket counter. Some airlines automatically make the offer of a free upgrade to first class. Many travelers will take this offer; you want to be the first to accept. If an airline needs to bump five people from the flight, but ten people volunteer, not everyone will get a first-class upgrade. That is why you should be one of the first to take the offer.
As previously stated, this approach works great if you are not traveling on a deadline. If you must arrive at your destination for an important business meeting, do not take any risks. Before being bumped from your flight, take a number of factors into consideration. Aside from your travel reasons, consider the weather and the next available flight. If the weather is poor, your next flight may be canceled. This leaves you stranded and scraping the barrel for another flight, one in which you may have to fly coach. The departure time for the next available flight should be soon. Unless you have plenty of snacks and activities on hand, waiting an extra five hours at the airport may not be worth the first-class upgrade.
In short, if you do not have a strict travel deadline or flight time, consider using overbooking to your advantage. Provided you do not have to wait long and the weather forecast looks good, you have nothing to lose by asking for an upgrade. If your upgrade is refused, rescind your offer. It is accepted, it could mean your next departing flight is spacious, quiet, and comforting.