Airlines are giving out thousands of dollars to bump passengers

So far this year, 23% of all domestic and international flights in the U.S. have been delayed or disrupted, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.

The airline’s offer will typically start with a voice over the intercom. You’ll hear a gate agent offering some amount of money to give up your seat. If you’re already on the plane, it’ll be a flight attendant looking for volunteers.

That means more paying customers than available seats on planes — and passengers are cashing in by giving up their seats on overbooked planes, to the tune of thousands of dollars apiece. But airlines won’t simply offer you that much money off the bat, says Willis Orlando, a senior flight expert at Scott’s Cheap Flights. Rather, he says, you’ll need to negotiate

Orlando’s tip: Quickly express interest, but never take the airline’s starting price.

“If you are flexible, and you want to get that extra cash in your pocket ... run to the front and ask them for whatever the last person gets,” Orlando says. “It’s always the sweetest offer.”

You can sweeten other parts of your rebooked experience, too. Orlando says airlines are often willing to let you into their exclusive lounges or let you select a high-value seat near the front of the plane on your rebooked flight. All you have to do is ask.

If you do get forcibly bumped, you’ll at least be compensated for it: Federal law requires the airline to pay you up to four times your fare, up to $1,550 depending on when your rebooked flight departs.


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