UPDATE: 2:18 PM EST
Today’s blog post on Airfarewatchdog is also about bumping. Check it (after mine) and let me know what you think.
Welcome to the busiest travel period of the year.
For most travelers, this is a trying time and getting there (and home) is a daunting task.
This post will list a few ways to maximize the chances that you do not get bumped from your flight–and make it to your destination and back home.
Please see my post from 2010 which thoroughly explains bumping.
Here are 8 Great Tips to AVOID Getting Bumped From Holiday Flights:
- Avoid Busy Airports. Perhaps too late to book this year’s holiday flights but if not (and for the future) when possible avoid flying to/from/through busy airports. Avoid potential weather delays by connecting in southern airports; for instance, connect in Dallas instead of Chicago (although try to avoid both!). Here is a list of the busiest airports in the US and the world.
- Confirm itineraries. If you bought a cheap fare many months in advance, things may have changed. At least a few days before flying, confirm flight information, such as airports (departure, arrival, connecting), dates, times, and seat assignments. Airlines charge fees to book flights over the phone but not for checking information. So, call the airline, if you wish, or check your itinerary online. Believe me, it is much easier to address problems over the phone a couple of days before flying than at the airport.
- Print Boarding Pass. Most airlines will let you check in online and print your boarding pass up to 24 hours early. Do so! When flights are overbooked, being check in greatly increases the chance that you will not be bumped from your flight. Plus you will save time and stress compared to checking in at the airport. Yuck!
- Arrive Early. This week and a half (Friday before through Sunday after Thanksgiving) is the busiest travel time in the US. Airports are more crowded, check in lines are longer, staff is overwhelmed, flights will be overbooked. Hundreds of thousands of non-savvy travelers (who do not read my posts) will be clogging up the system. Allow additional time to find parking, pass through security, board planes, and everything else.
- Be informed. If you are checking bags (try very hard NOT to), ask the agent to confirm the gate where your flight will depart and connecting flight information. When walking to the departure gate, check the information boards in case there is any change (departure time, gate). If you will be in an airline lounge, let the desk agent know your flight information (they will find you if any changes).
- Listen to Announcements. I know you would love to catch up on calls or crank up your iPod while killing time but I suggest that at least one person in your party pay attention to the blathering announcements. Flights may board and depart early, gates may change, flights may be delayed or cancelled.
- Board Early. Normally, I like to minimize my time on planes and will choose to board as late as possible. If I am on an overbooked flight, however, I usually board as early as I can. When there are duplicate seat assignments, for instance, the person occupying the seat almost always stays and the second boarder has to sit elsewhere. On the other hand, at least once I have been the second boarder and been relocated to first class. I do not want to take that risk on an overbooked flight.
- Be Nice. Since I believe in travel karma, I believe it pays dividends to be nice to the airline and airport personnel all the time but especially when it is super crazy. A smile goes a long way with shuttle drivers, TSA workers, and overworked and under appreciated airline staff. I have given small chocolate items to flight attendants and half a Santarpios pizza to a pilot without expectation of anything in return. Anyway, it can only help you ensure receiving a spot on your flight if you are nice rather than obnoxious. Although I have not seen a scientific study, I have seen both “strategies” many times and rarely see the negative behavior be rewarded.
Following these tips will not guarantee, but will maximize the chance, that you that you get a seat on an overbooked flight.
If you are a flexible traveler and are willing to give up your seat (be bumped) in exchange for compensation, well, I will cover that in my next post.
Charles McCool is an independent consumer travel advocate.
© 2011, Charles McCool