So I headed to Austin this weekend for the notorious South by Southwest film/ music/ interactive conference, where the world’s hippest and geekiest self-proclaimed techie heads in their skinny jeans, derby hats and Ipads all jetted in. It is such a huge event that every flight to Austin was oversold and every hotel was booked.
I became one of those oversold people, whose ticket type on American Airlines didn’t deserve a seat nor was I allowed to standby on an earlier flight unless I shelled out $50 – which my company would have paid, but out of principle I refused. My favorite is when the gate agent tells you your ticket type is the wrong kind, as if it was something personal and that I had purposely chosen this particular ticket type (W instead of Q, none of which mean anything to me). In any case, my ticket type was so low on the alphabet and therefore my status as a human being diminshed greatly that I didn’t get my seat until I arrived in Austin.
Meanwhile, the gate was giving away travel vouchers worth $300 if you volunteered to give up your seat for a later time. I was really in no rush to get to this conference and I would have welcomed the free ticket, which I would get to keep, not my office.
I’ve heard and read how easy it is for airlines to hand out free vouchers, and how difficult it is for passengers to redeem these vouchers for an actual flight. Just recently, American was slapped with a penalty for charging its passengers a $30 fee to use a voucher. a $30 fee!! The audacity some airlines have! They oversell their own flights and then charge people whse original flight they couldn’t even honor. Blech.
However, ‘ve used one voucher ever, and that was with United Airlines. They were kind after a delay from mechanical difficulty to hand them out to frustrated passengers. I used ours promptly to book a flight to a wedding in LA.
Vouchers are usually handed out on oversold flights, so if you’re really looking to score them and you have lots of free time on your hands, travel on the really busy times of the day – Friday afternoons, Sunday evenings, during conferences and popular events, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Easter weekend – those will usually do the trick.
You will always be placed first on the next available flight with open seats. If you’re really good, you can volunteer to get off the next flight and earn yourself another free seat somewhere.
Make sure you use your ticket within a year. Most expire after a year is up.
If you get bumped from a late flight and have to stay in a hotel or over a meal, ask for a voucher or how to get your meal and/ or hotel covered by the airline.
Now I arrived in Austin and the meeting I needed to go to doesn’t even start until 3:30, so I technically could have taken the voucher and hopped on a 2:00 flight from Dallas. Next time…