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Getting Paid for Changing Your Flights

This article was written by in Consumer, Saving. 19 comments.


I’ve heard stories about people receiving various perks from airlines in return for giving up their seats on overcrowded flights. I never attempted this myself, but now I know there is a method to perk offerings, I may try to work the system if I find myself on a tight flight. Here are the tricks regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration:

If the airline can get you to your final destination within an hour of your originally scheduled time, it doesn’t have to compensate you at all.

If the airline can get you on another flight scheduled to arrive at your final destination within two hours of your original domestic flight or four hours for an international flight, you’re entitled to an amount equal to your one-way fare, up to a maximum of $200.

If you’re delayed more than two hours domestically or four hours internationally, you’re supposed to get double your one-way fare, up to a maximum $400. That’s also the limit if the airline makes no alternate arrangements for you.

The airline can offer a voucher for future travel, but you can (and probably should) insist on cash (actually, a check). The voucher or check must be issued immediately.

The important point here is that these regulations are only available if the airline requires you to change your flight. If you volunteer to give up your seat, you’re on your own for negotiating with the airline. The most you may be able to get is a voucher for a free flight with many restrictions.

Here are three tips for changing flights, as a volunteer or otherwise:

* Pick a seat. It’s harder to bump you if you have had an assigned seat since the time you purchased the ticket.
* Check in early. You can check in from home over the internet up to 24 hours before the flight. Get to the airport early because you never know what the lines at the security screening will be.
* Get a guarantee — or an alternative. If you get bumped, get a confirmed seat on another flight — or even another carrier if you have to. If you are only offered standby status, you may have to deal with more full flights and a long waiting period in the airpor.

Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published June 15, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Koontz

About 6 years ago, I found myself in Atlanta on a very business Saturday before a holiday. I gave up my seat three times in one day in exchange for 3 free $250 vouchers. I ended up flying first class on a direct flight and which arrived only 3 hours later than my original arrival time. I could have had at least one more free ticket, but would have had to stay the night. I think I did just fine!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,500 (Platinum)

Sounds like you made out well. $750 for waiting for three hours is a nice wage.

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avatar John Koontz

Works for me!

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