How I Got American Airlines to Give Me $1000 (again)

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Yesterday, while traveling through Austin to Phoenix, American Airlines gave me a $960 flight voucher for my seat.

Plus hotel. Plus meals.

It was a pretty solid score, and so I wrote a follow-up piece on how to maximize your travel vouchers, as this is not my first encounter with travel vouchers.

Here’s a story I wrote back in 2012, when I got my first flight voucher.

So I guess I should say, “Thanks American Airlines, for all the money!”

My First Travel Voucher

Back in 2012, I traveled to New Orleans to speak as a panelist at Meet Plan Go! Nola. It was a very inspiring trip and I came back more determined than ever to get to work… but I also came back with an extra $1,000 flight voucher courtesy of American Airlines for being a flexible traveler.

You see, American Airlines, as well as others like Continental and United, have a horrible habit of overselling their flights.

In order to compensate, they often ask for volunteers to take a later flight or re-route their trips, in exchange for a voucher of some amount. Usually they start off with $200 or $300, and if no one volunteers, they’ll usually go to a maximum of $500.

How I Volunteered My Seat For a Flight Voucher

My original flight from Dallas to Tucson was oversold, so they started offering flight vouchers. No one budged.

Eventually, they increased the amount to $500, plus free meals, plus free hotel for the night. I went for it! I was supposed to be rerouted in the morning, from Dallas to Chicago and then onto Tucson, which I didn’t mind.

But in the morning, my flight to Chicago was oversold. Once again, they started calling off, $300, $400, $500. I didn’t know that I was even eligible to volunteer, but I went up to the counter and began asking.

They were able to put me on a direct flight from Dallas, WITHOUT having to go through Chicago, putting me in 2 hours earlier… Oh, and they gave me another $500 voucher for ‘inconveniencing me’.

You could really make a business of this. How?

  • Fly Through Busy Hubs: If you can, schedule your return flight through a large, busy airport, such as Dallas, Miami or Chicago. You’ll have a better chance of finding oversold flights.
  • Be Flexible: Get real comfortable in airports, and understand the value you’re getting. If you’re scheduled to get back at 5 p.m., and a new flight puts you back at 8 p.m., who really cares? You’re already in the airport all day anyway. If you can be flexible and are open to being re-routed, you’ll be able to cash in big time on that flight voucher.
  • Don’t Go For The First Offer: Surprisingly, most people DON’T want to give up their seat, no matter how much you pay them. Most have to go to work, have to get back to their families, etc. Which is great for you. If you hear the airline reps continue to increase the price, wait until they hit $500 at least.

Needless to say, I’m super excited. The vouchers are good for one year, without any restrictions on black-out dates. With the free money, I’m planning on taking my boyfriend to Italy. He’s never left the country (in almost 2 years of us dating) and I’ve never been to Europe. Next time I go through Dallas (or anywhere, really) I will absolutely volunteer again.

UPDATES AND SPOILERS FROM 2018

I didn’t use the flight voucher to fly my boyfriend to Italy. I used the money to buy a plane ticket for one of our writers to go to Argentina and write our Go! Girl Guides: Argentina book. The ticket cost $1400 but I only had to pay $400 out of pocket.

Oh, and he and I broke up. Eh!

How about you? Have you ever received a travel voucher for being flexible? Where did you go?

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About Author

Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, the Women's Travel Fest and Damesly. She's an optimist, an adventurer, an author and works to help women travel the world.

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