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Two nights ago I booked a round trip ticket from North Carolina, USA to Hong Kong, for a 64 day trip. I will leave in late August.
Total cost for the flight: $0
No frequent flier miles, nothing to do with credit cards.
I got it by being ready, flexible, and willing to volunteer. Here is the short version:
Recently I took a week long trip to visit family in another state. On the first leg of the return trip when I arrived at the gate I saw that they were already looking for volunteers to be bumped to a later flight. I asked about the deal. $600 credit voucher, late flight the same day, "I will take it." They make you wait around to determine whether they will indeed need your seat. They did.
Later that day...Same deal, but the next flight they could put me on was the next day. $600 voucher plus a hotel voucher.
Next 3 days, rinse and repeat. I ended up with $2800 in vouchers from a major American airline and a CHECK for $840. I arrived home 4 days later than originally expected, but I work for myself and my wife is easy to get along with. No problems.
This is not a new strategy. If you have traveled much you have seen airlines asking for volunteers. I have done this for one coupon before. What was unusual was that they were so heavily overbooked that it worked repeatedly. And obviously they don't mind if the same person repeats the process.
Here is how you do it:
1. Arrive to the gate early.
2. As soon as the gate agents show up, approach them and tell them that you may want to volunteer if they are overbooked. Make sure that the agent takes your name, and then stress that you are serious about this. You don't want to have them forget about you and broadcast a call and have someone get to the counter and beat you out.
3. Sit very close to the counter and be ready, just in case.
4. If they call for volunteers, be polite and friendly. Ask what they are offering. Ask details for the flight you will be transferred to. Ask about a hotel if you are staying overnight. Take the deal if you like it.
5. Be polite and friendly. I already mentioned that, but this is how important it is. The gate agents are hectic, overbusy, and pressured when flights are overbooked. Many people are angry. Make yourself the exact opposite of that angry passenger. They will notice. When I finally did fly, they put me on First Class for my return trip, and gave me a couple of coupons which can be used for a free beer/cocktail/headset on a later flight.
I used $1170 of my coupons to pay for the Hong Kong round trip flights. HK is not my ultimate destination. I will spend most of the trip in Vietnam. And I still have over $1400 of coupons left. I am thinking of a Central America or South America trip early in 2015.
I was motivated to post this because of a recent Winston post about "bad luck". I don't believe in luck.
Some would say that this is an example of good luck. I don't think so. I think it is only an example of understanding how a system works, being ready to use it to my benefit, and then approaching it with a positive attitude.
Yeah I would like a bit more information. So basically I book (pay for) a flight to wherever and ask to be put on the volunteer for somebody else to take my seat on a overbooked flight? If that flight is overbooked and somebody really (supposedly) needs to get on that flight I give up my seat/ticket for them to take it and in return I get a voucher for the next available flight?
I understand that much, but I don't understand how you can parlay that into $2800 worth of vouchers and $840 in cash??? There must be quite a demand for flights to HK.