Getting bumped from a flight: How to negotiate with airlines

Compensation sometimes offered to passengers willing to give up seats on overbook flights

Airlines are filling up planes, they don't have enough staff, and sometimes, they have to bump a passenger from their scheduled flight. The good news is that if you're looking at getting bumped, your negotiation power is greater than it's ever been before. Here's what you need to know.

DETROIT – Planes are full, flights are delayed, and sometimes, airlines will offer compensation for your seat -- but did you know that you can negotiate?

Airlines are facing problems: Flights are full, staff shortages continue and airlines are filling up planes anyway. Sometimes, they may bump a passenger from their scheduled flight. And sometimes, they may offer compensation for volunteers willing to give up their seat on an overbooked flight.

If your flight has been oversold, you may get an offer to give up your seat -- but don’t take the first offer you get. In these trying travel times, airlines are willing to negotiate.

In fact, just recently, eight Grand Rapids passengers on a Delta flight to Minneapolis made national news when they were offered $10,000 each to give up their seats.

Here are some negotiating tips if you’re asked to give up your seat:

  • Quickly express interest, but never take the airline’s starting price. If your travel timelines is flexible and you want to get that extra cash in your pocket, go to the front and ask them for whatever the last person gets. It’s always the sweetest offer.
  • Ask for add ons, like a hotel room, the option to pick your next seat, or free access into the airlines vip lounge.

Here are the airlines most likely to bump passengers this year, or offer a deal:

  • Frontier Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • American Airlines

If you do get forcibly bumped from your flight, 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 takes off.


Related: Summer of lost baggage: Tips for protecting your luggage when flying


About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.