This time of year, I see a lot of folks traveling. We're gearing up for the holidays, when airports are busiest. But in the new fiscal quarter, which started in October, plenty of businessmen travel to work sites and other office branches.
And it's not just my imagination... Fall brings a huge uptick in air travel. According to data from travel management firm SAP Concur, crowds grow as we move toward the end of the year. In fact, October and November are the busiest months even for infrequent travelers.
With so many crowds, there's nothing more annoying than trying to make a flight and getting "bumped."
But you can earn some money for this... if you know your rights to compensation as mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The No. 1 question that people forget to ask is: "Can I get cash instead?"
Here's the thing...
Most airlines will initially offer you an airline voucher. This is cheaper for them. But if you don't have a choice in giving up your seat – an involuntary denial of boarding – ask for cash.
Here are the rules: If you give up your seat and the agent books you on a flight that arrives at your destination one to two hours late, you should receive a check for two times your one-way fare, up to a maximum of $675. And if you arrive more than two hours late, you should receive four times the cost of your one-way ticket, up to a maximum of $1,350.
Considering that the average cost of a one-way domestic flight in the U.S. is around $350, according to the Department of Transportation. That's $700 that you could pocket... just for knowing your rights.
Usually, the process to get this money is fairly straightforward. But if you run into hassles with your airline, you can file a complaint through the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division right here.
Or you can use the website AirHelp...
AirHelp takes care of all the legwork for filing your claim.
While it does take about 25% of any compensation you receive as a fee, this can be worth it if you don't have the time to hound the airline for your money... or if you're just not sure if your flight qualifies.
According to the company, "Less than 2% of eligible air passengers receive the compensation that is rightfully theirs."
And there's no risk... If you don't get paid, you don't owe AirHelp anything. AirHelp isn't just for U.S. citizens. It can also help people flying in Europe.
(European readers can also use Refund.me – another service that handles flight compensation for people in various countries in Europe.)
But what if you ask to bump yourself off a flight? It's actually a great secret I call the "Eifrig Family Travel Rule." I've used it to make hundreds off of simply delaying my flight.
Knowing this rule makes dealing with your next canceled flight far easier... and could save you a few hundred dollars. And with the holiday travel season looming, now's a great time to learn it...
A few years ago, around this time of year, the airline overbooked my flight... But I didn't worry. Instead, I got to the airport a little early, walked up to the counter at the gate, and talked to the agent. Ultimately, I accepted $600 from the airline to take a later flight.
Not bad pay for a five-minute conversation and getting on a flight a couple hours later. Essentially, they paid me to simply wait...
It's a trick called "voluntary denied boarding." You can volunteer to give up your seat on an overbooked flight and take a later flight... In return, you'll receive an airline voucher for a certain amount, often between $200 and $600, as well as a ticket on the next available flight.
And if you don't like the agent's offer, you can negotiate. (I like to ask for a first-class seat on the rebooked flight.)
This conversation is also a good time to confirm when the next flight will be and whether the compensation has an expiration date. (The standard is one year.) Also ask if there are any blackout dates on which you can't use the ticket.
And if the next available flight isn't until the next day, the airline should pick up your hotel tab. If it doesn't offer, make sure to ask.
I've used this "travel hack" many times since 1980. My family and I have a standing agreement around the holidays. If a family member can get "bumped" to a new flight and make money on the deal, it's completely fine to do so. This has had me arriving on Thanksgiving morning more than once in exchange for giving up a Wednesday afternoon or evening ticket.
One of our managing editors, Steven Longenecker, used to volunteer to "take a bump" nearly every time he flew through Atlanta on AirTran Airways (now owned by Southwest Airlines). He got free flight vouchers almost every time.
And nothing is stopping you from volunteering to "bump" yourself on your re-ticketed flight if that one is also overbooked, and getting another voucher. This is my favorite move.
So, don't stress if the airports fill with crowds this season. Take the opportunity to collect money for waiting instead.
What We're Reading...
- Did you miss it? Five ways to save on holiday travel.
- Something different: Maybe skip the air dryer in the airport bathroom.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
October 4, 2018