If you fly often, you've probably encountered this scenario at one point. Airlines overbook planes to account for the percentage of people that will be no-shows, but often, everyone shows up and there aren't enough seats on the aircraft. When this happens, airlines will usually offer people a voucher to take a later flight and allow some seats to be freed up so that everyone who needs to fly on this aircraft can do so.
If you've ever heard the gate announcement begging for volunteers, you'll notice that very few people usually take the offer. There's good reason for that — a lot of inconvenience comes with doing so. But there's actually a lot of potential good in it too...
10 Leave: The Money Can Be Good
The money that airlines offer can be ridiculously good. Some of those vouchers can be for $1000+, money that can be used for multiple domestic flights or even longhaul — all just for you to take another flight than you originally planned. If you fly often, they might even offer you airmiles instead, but usually they will try to make it worth your time. Otherwise, no one would ever take the deal.
9 Stay: But They Won't Guarantee That Beforehand
The problem is, they'll rarely tell you how much the voucher is for until you accept. Often, if they're struggling for volunteers, they'll say one amount and then up it to entice more people into accepting the voucher and someone later than you will get more money. The actual amount is luck of the draw — you have to weight out the potential inconvenience with the potential reward.
8 Leave: The Delay Isn't Usually Too Long
Airlines are usually pretty reasonable about this. They don't expect you to camp out in the airport for forty-eight hours in return for your voucher. Often, the delays can be as little as an hour, and they'll tell you your alternative flight beforehand so you can weigh up if you aren't going to have to live in the airport for much longer.
Sometimes, it can be a few hours of a difference, but even then it's still worth it.
7 Stay: But It Still Could Be A Longer Journey Time
Even if you only have to wait in the airport for a few hours, the journey itself can be increased. You may now have a connection instead of a direct flight. If it's an international journey, the chances of your connections being longer (or simply having more of them) is increased. They'll slot you in wherever you can, and people have been known to end up stuck overnight in connecting airports as they attempt to get home. So although the delay may not sound long, you could be going from a ten to a twenty hour journey time. Worth checking that.
6 Leave: Sometimes You Get Food Vouchers
If they do expect you to stay in the airport for a long time, they might give you food vouchers to be used at restaurants.
We have to admit, this pro is pretty small — if they do give you a voucher, it's going to be for around $5-10 and with the prices of airport food being a small fortune, this might get you a bottle of water and bag of Sour Patch Kids at best. But hey, it's something if you want to weigh up all of the advantages of staying behind as your intended flight takes off.
5 Stay: You Could Be Rerouted Through A Bad Airport
It's not just the connection time you have to think about, but where you're connecting.
If it's an international journey, your luggage may not end up checked all the way through — you could end up landing at an airport where you suddenly have to claim it and re-check it, depending on the customs laws in that country. When you're inquiring and they tell you about your potential new flight, ask about how your connection would go if it's not a domestic journey.
4 Leave: You Might Get A Free Upgrade
Occasionally, if they bump you onto a new flight and the seats there are limited, you might end up in a better seat than you paid for, such as premium economy or even business class.
This truly would be hitting the jackpot — leaving a few hours later in return for free flights and a much more comfortable journey home. It's by no means likely, but it's also happened to quite a few people.
3 Stay: ...Or A Downgrade
But then there's the flip side of that coin. If you booked a window seat so you could cosy up and sleep, there may only be middle seats left on your new flight. Not a huge deal if your flight home is only an hour or two but on a twelve hour flight, middle seats are pretty much hell, let's face it.
2 Leave: Probably Worth It In The Long Run
For frequent fliers, the deal is probably worth it overall. The money they'll offer you will definitely be worth it or no one would take the deal, and if you have the time to linger in the airport for a few hours and more trips planned in the future, future-you will probably thank past-you for being willing to suffer for a little while. Yes, you'll get impatient and frustrated, but what's a couple of hours of that compared to some free trips?
1 Stay: The Next Flight Could Be Disrupted
Your next flight could be disrupted, as is the case with any flight. You're going to kick yourself if your intended flight takes off without you, nice and on-time, and then your new flight is delayed three, four, five hours — or worse, canceled altogether.
Overall, it's a personal decision based on what information the gate agents are willing to give you and your personal schedule and priorities — but it's worth not dismissing straight out of hand, that's for sure.