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how to score a travel voucher for flights

How to score a travel voucher on your next flight

Nick has banked over $10,000 in free flight vouchers. How? With a handful of simple tricks. Here are his tips for scoring travel vouchers for flights.


Who says you can’t get anything for free? Just ask a broke college student forking out hundreds of dollars for each flight home for the holidays. AKA me. Well, me a few years back. One holiday I scored a free voucher for taking a later departure on an overbooked flight. Over the last 10 years, I’ve banked more than $10,000 in vouchers.

Hold it. What is an overbooked flight?

Airlines often sell more seats than they have inventory available. They know that some amount of travelers will sleep through their alarm, get stuck in traffic, or think their flight isn’t until the next day. It happens. If American Airlines could save $40,000 a year by removing one olive from first-class cabin salads, imagine how much money would be left on the table if they assumed everyone would show for their flight and left seats unused.

But sometimes it backfires and everybody shows. Regulations in the U.S. could force the airline to pay you 400% of the value of a one-way ticket to your destination. That’s a heck of a lot more than they can “bribe” you to get off with a voucher in hand to fly on their airline in the future. Win-Win.

Is this happening more as airlines profit margins narrow? 

Surprisingly not. Travelers being bumped from flights edged past 1 million in the late 1990s. But that was a rough time for all of us. We thought carrying backpacks on one shoulder looked cool (hello back pain in 2019), proudly danced the “Macarena,” and went everywhere in Dr. Martens. We’ve all moved on. 

Ok back to free tix… Here are a few trips and tricks to increase your odds of cashing in on free airplane vouchers. 

Tips to score travel vouchers for flights

1. Choose full flights.

You are more likely to get bumped from flights that are more heavily sold. (Thanks captain obvious.) But you are hopefully booking ahead of the curve. If there is no real price difference, book a popular time to travel. Also, don’t pay for the extra legroom. If you get bumped you lose that value. 

2. Leave buffer time.

While you’re at the booking game, give yourself a little buffer time, especially during holiday travel. At times you might be booked on a flight that is only minutes behind in arrivals or you might have to fly out the next day. Go ahead take a sick day before your vacation day. 

3. Pack lightly.

You are reading a travel blog. So, you probably already know to put everything into a carry on bag and leave checking a bag for the amateurs. This makes rebooking SO much easier for the airline and you will not be separated from your stuff if you have to fly out the next day.  (We gave some packing tips that might help here, especially in basic economy.

4. Be single.

Sometimes it really pays not to have a companion. Traveling solo makes it easier for airlines to rebook you on future flights. 

5. Early bird gets the blah blah…

It’s first come/first served for volunteering for travel vouchers for flights. So, get to the gate early. Sit right close to the gate agent. If they call for volunteers. Don’t dawdle. Be the first in line. 

6. Be nice.

Your mama (or some cross-stitched pillow) probably told you that you catch more bees with honey. I’m not sure how you catch bees without honey, but this is so true at the airport, especially during peak travel time. Remember that you are actually trying to help them. The easier they can rebook somebody the less hassle and grumpy passengers they will have to handle. 

+ Bonus Varsity Level Tip

This is probably a controversial tip. But if the Gate Agents aren’t too busy, I try to suss out the situation before they ask for volunteers. This could backfire if you nag and annoy them. But if you can find a reason to talk to them and throw out a “Flight Looked full. Are ya’ll oversold? Oh ya? Cool. I’m totally game to help out and take a later flight.” It might help you to the front of the line before it’s announced. 

This worked for me in my early 20’s (and I probably leaned into my southern accent when flying into/out of Texas) but give it a shot if you think you can pull it off.

Some restrictions apply, especially on international flights. So, don’t bank on this as a sure thing, but it’s a great surprise when you hit the jackpot. 

Here is some more info on your rights.

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Got more tips on how to score travel vouchers for flights? Share them in the comment section below!

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September 24, 2019 at 2:16 pm

[…] A jaunt to Colorado not in your budget at the moment? Learn how you can score a free travel voucher on your next flight. […]

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