Not a bad deal: American Airlines paid my wife and $1,000 each to get bumped by just one day. *AFP photo
Not a bad deal: American Airlines paid my wife and $1,000 each to get bumped by just one day. *AFP photo

I love it when an airline pays me not to fly.

Last April, when my wife and I were flying back from Miami, American Airlines was looking for three people to give up their seats.

Since we were coming home on a Saturday and really didn’t have to be back in Bermuda until Sunday, I eagerly hopped up to snag the offered $800 travel vouchers for the both of us.

American also paid for our hotel room overnight and paid for our dinner breakfast and lunch.

We then flew back on Sunday.

That’s a pretty sweet deal — they basically paid us $1,000 each to wait one day to fly.

On Wednesday I was able to use those vouchers — and we still have money left on them to spend.

When American gives out vouchers, you can book the tickets one year from the date they were issued, which made it
imperative we book them.

If you are just using up the total value of the voucher, you can do that over the phone. 

If you are going to have a credit left over from them, then you will need to go to American’s office at the Airport so new vouchers with the remaining credit can be issued.

In our case, we had just over $300 left in each one, so I went down to AA’s office where customer service agent Meakie Ball walked me through the process. She was extremely professional and polite.

The best part, since American issued us new vouchers, was we now have another year in which to book new tickets.

If you’re interested in being able to take up an airline’s offer to get a voucher, here are a couple of tips.

The first is you have to have a flexible travel schedule. In our case, we purposely choose to fly back originally on a Saturday, knowing we had the extra day to play with. The previous time we flew back from Miami, there was an offer to give up seats, but since it was on a Sunday, we really could not delay our homecoming by a day.

Secondly, you need to sit close to the counter. If you’re sitting eight rows back, there are lots of people who can get to the counter before you. 

Another strategy, instead of sitting close to the ticket counter at the gate, is when you check-in, tell the gate attendant you are willing to be bumped if they need someone to give up their seat. That seems a bit forward to me, but the squeaky wheel gets oiled.

A fourth tip, which we didn’t use but veteran voucher collectors do (yes, there are some people who make it their job to get the free trips), is when booking your trip, look for a flight that is near full. That increases the chance of someone being bumped, thus increasing your chance of volunteering to get bumped. 

A final tip is, be nice. The gate attendants don’t have to take the first person who volunteers. If you’re rude and there are several people who said they wouldn’t mind waiting until the next flight, it may not be you who they choose.