John The Traveler and Mark with Claire, the United agent who processed our vouchers

It was a Sunday evening, one week into the new year. We had just boarded United flight #1566 to Mexico City in the second boarding group.

After we took our seats, we noticed that boarding stopped. Earlier they made an announcement about the plane being overweight and were looking for volunteers to agree to be bumped to another flight for $500 credit.

John The Traveler & Mark sitting in their airplane seats with thumbs up, ready to go
Thumbs up before volunteering to give up our seats

We didn’t pay too much attention, since we were excited to go to Mexico City for the first time (it was Mark’s first time in Mexico too). However, it was getting clearer that they were not going to leave until someone else volunteered.

A woman passed through the aisle, exclaiming “I would do it, but I have to work tomorrow. They’re offering $1,000 now.”

Mark and I looked at each other. He suggested maybe we should do it. After all, we really didn’t have specific plans the next day and our entire lifestyle now is built for flexibility.

Just then, a staff person from the airline made an announcement, this time to the people already on the plane. They were still looking for two volunteers to be put on the next day’s flight, and the price had gone up to $1,500. Per person.

John The Traveler, Claire the United Airlines agent helping us, and Mark at the gate after we were rebooked
Claire worked hard to get us all of our vouchers, flight credit, and hotel arrangements

I went up to clarify the offer and determine what would be covered beyond the travel credit. That’s a decent amount of credit, but we also didn’t want to have to pay out of pocket for food or transportation.

We live about a two-hour Metro ride away from Dulles Airport, and there was nothing in our refrigerator at home. Asking someone to come pick us up would be an inconvenience for everyone, so I wanted to know if lodging would be covered too.

Satisfied that each of us would receive $1,500 in travel credit, vouchers for all the meals between now and our new flight, and a hotel nearby that we could select, it was a no-brainer to agree to be bumped.

If I’d been working full time, I would have been upset about losing a day of sightseeing, wasting a vacation day, etc. Our flexibility allowed us to sit around and make $3,000!

Example of one of the meal vouchers we received to get bumped to the next day's flight
One of the many meal vouchers we got

The only “loss” we experienced besides time was the equivalent of one night at our Airbnb in Mexico City, or about $40. That seems like a good trade off to me.

We weren’t the only ones who volunteered to get bumped. Besides us, there was an entire family with 4 kids, a young woman, and a middle-aged man. Processing all of them took some time, and we had to wait for everyone else since we were the last to have volunteered.

Once we were set up with all of our vouchers and credits, we were free to go take the hotel shuttle to the Tru by Hilton in Ashburn, which I’d chosen to rack up some more points. Yes, another benefit was that even though the airline paid for the hotel, I got the credit and points for it.

Hotel bed and TV
Our simple but nice room in Ashburn, Virginia

The hotel was relatively simple, but nice. It was around 8:30pm by then and we had already eaten a lot before the flight, so we weren’t even hungry. It was a chance to decompress, relax in the hotel room, and get a good night’s sleep.

The hotel included breakfast, so we didn’t need to use the vouchers there. I put in for a late check out at 1pm, when we took the shuttle back to the airport.

Our flight wasn’t until 5:30pm, but we figured we would just eat lunch at the airport and use our vouchers. We also wanted to check out the new Capital One Lounge, which grants us free access because we have the Venture X rewards card.

Bar and lounge chairs
The spacious and nearly empty bar area of the Capital One Lounge on a Monday afternoon at Dulles Airport

The lounge has food. It’s free. It’s delicious. We did not want for anything after leaving there.

But what was our next stop? A restaurant of course, because we had all those vouchers and hadn’t used any of them yet.

It was an awkward time before the flight and between mealtimes, but we ordered burgers at Bistro Atelier anyway. We’d already gathered some snacks from the lounge for the plane ride.

John and Mark with burgers, posing for a selfie
Eating once again before our flight to Mexico City

Luckily our server was gracious enough to allow us to redeem all of our unused vouchers, which expired the next day and were only valid at the airport. She then promised to pay the balance forward until it was depleted. Hopefully several hungry travelers were able to enjoy meals on us, or rather, on United.

We boarded our next flight and everything went smoothly. Considering the minimal effort and despite waiting 24 hours, it was a travel win.

If you have the flexibility to do it, I would highly recommend volunteering to get bumped. Negotiate your price and amenities, and don’t just settle for what the airline will offer.

Good luck and happy travels to you. May you get bumped in the best possible and most rewarding way!

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