I tried for a travel voucher, and it backfired

Building slightly off of last Friday’s post about miles and points…..

Due to the nature of my travel, there are not a lot of opportunities for me to volunteer to get bumped off a flight. Lately, a ton of the flights I’ve been on have been oversold, but I don’t volunteer. Usually I have to be somewhere at a certain time, so there’s not a lot of travel flexibility. Last week, though, I got my chance.

I was flying to Nashville, on the next to last flight out. The flight was oversold by several people, and they asked for people willing to take the next flight. I thought, My event isn’t until 11 tomorrow. I could get in a little later. I’ll sit in the airport for a bit and take a travel voucher! So I made my way to the desk to volunteer. The gate agent told me I was second on the list, to not board with my group, and she will let me know if she needs me. While the plane boards, I finish some work for the day, thinking idly about what I want to do with my voucher.

Except when the plane was finished boarding, the gate agent called my name, handed me a boarding pass, and said she didn’t need me after all. I was bummed, but figured I was no worse for the wear. Until I got to the end of the jet bridge and realized that not only was I not getting a voucher, but the overhead bin space was full and I was going to have to check my bag. To end the night, my connecting flight was delayed, and getting my bag took thirty minutes in Nashville. Lame.

Voucher-knowledgeable Readers, is this par for the course? It just seemed as though I was going through a lot of additional aggravation for volunteering to help, which disinclines me to volunteer in the future…. Is it worth it?


  1. The biggest problem with volunteering is exactly what you outline…you can’t board and then if you aren’t needed you can’t check your bag. The last time I volunteered, the GA said she would guarantee a spot for my bag. Not sure exactly how she would do that (the FA closet?)…but, in the end I was needed. Clearly this a problem with the system.

  2. Never, ever volunteer if I have another connecting flight.

    If I am on my last leg, OK why not. But having a connecting flight is a recipe for disaster.

  3. This is exactly the problem with VDB vouchers. I don’t know what the answer is. I have seen this discussed on flyertalk; can’t recall if anyone has a good solution.

  4. I had the exact same experience, but with mine, they failed to call me after they boarded the rest, and I had to ask (multiple times) if I needed to board yet — so I nearly missed the flight. And I also had that “oh no” moment when I realized that the overhead bin space was all gone.

  5. I’ve actually volunteered, then just boarded anyhow so I could store my carry-on. They then came on board and found me when they wanted to use my seat.

  6. Go to ual.com and submit a post-travel comment/complaint, and you will likely receive a voucher anyway!

  7. Just curious: If a flight is oversold and an overweight passenger was forced to buy a second seat is that seat left empty or given to a passenger who needs a seat?

  8. Skip those vouchers. Insist in a good check or green cash. As for volunteering for a bump with connectons pwnding: Nuts. For a terminal flight, sure, but only if there other options. Get the cash and get home on time. -C.

  9. Another problem with volunteering is that you may lose a choice seat in the process. The GA may give your (good) seat to someone else, and then at the end there may be someone who doesn’t board and you are stuck in a middle seat at the rear of the plane, since they don’t want to give the compensation if they don’t have to.

  10. I realized that you probably weren’t flying on United. However, knowing them, if you go to there website and file a complaint about another airline, they’ll probably still give you a voucher. 🙂

  11. @politiweb – if a POS buys a second seat, it’s theirs; no one else will be seated there (Otherwise – would defeat the purpose).

    @cedarglen – good luck with that.

  12. I very rarely volunteer. There was one time when it really worked out and got the voucher. The vouchers can be less than you bargained for, too. This particular case was on United. The voucher I received was only valid for use on certain fare codes/types that were unavailable for the most part. Some codes that were considered valid were only at airports that I never use. I was able to eventually use it, but it took some extra effort to do so.

  13. Yup, I had the same thing with United. It was a Thanksgiving flight and they asked for volunteers. It wasn’t until I was off the plane that they gave me a voucher that could NOT be used for holiday travel. That part wasn’t disclosed until I read the fine print. If I’m volunteering, they better be giving me like for like. Hear that United? Never again.

  14. Once had them give away my exit row seat after volunteering. This was in EWR with Continental. Now I insist they don’t touch my seat and always board if the bump hasn’t been processed by the time elite boarding is done.

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