Why You Might Not Want To Volunteer To Bump On an Oversold Flight

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Most airlines these days oversell their flights due to the number of no-show passengers from a variety of reasons including missed connections, arriving late, having too many drinks in the airport lounge etc.

With the recent changes for instance, Delta is allowed to offer up to $9,500 in compensation and United can offer up to $10,000 to get volunteers to take a later flight, meaning you shouldn’t accept the initial offer of $400 or $800!

Even with the increased compensation it may seem very tempting to volunteer to give up your seat, but what happens if they don’t end up needing you.

On a recent Delta flight, they were oversold and soliciting three volunteers in the gate area to give up their seats with a later flight and a $800 voucher. I decided to volunteer and was told to have a seat and not to board as they wouldn’t know till the end if they would need any volunteers.

I watched as they boarded First Class, Sky Priority, Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3. They then started calling a few names of the PA system that this was their final call for the flight. Sure enough, they didn’t show up and they told the volunteers to board, but at this point the flight was full and there was no space for the overhead bags.

The gate agent did let us try to bring them on the plane, but we were stopped by the flight attendant who forced us all to gate check bags. When you volunteer and don’t get used, the airline doesn’t offer you anything. I’ve had before received a few drink coupons back when they had paper drink certificates, but have since they moved to electronic certificates.

Bottom Line

Just know if you volunteer and you’re not needed you’ll be boarding last and will most likely have to check your rollaboard bag. Even worst, I’ve seen them give away volunteers original seats only to be told to board with a middle seat in the back of the cabin.

Have you had any negative experiences volunteering on an oversold flight and not being needed? Feel free to share your stories below. 

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  1. I guess you are new to flying. I also had a DL flight that asked for Vols. I went up and was told $400 and to wait. I said I will wait until the end of Group 1 boards and then if Im not used I will board but you can always come aboard and take me off(only traveling with my carry-on) In this case I knew I was save since they said they needed 15 bags to be gate checked and only had 3.. They got the other 12

    As by you they didnt need anyone but at least I got a window Comfort Plus instead of my last row aisle, and I boarded with my carry-on since I knew there would be room. I stayed on top of the GA and every so often once boarding started asked her what it looked like VDB wise, so I would know when to board. She was nice and only told me to board when she knew there were no-shows

    And yes Ive boarded and had the GA come on board and take me off when they indeed needed my seat.I always mention how I want a win-win for everyone, me if no VDB I get my carry-on on, The carrier gets a VDB and dont have to IDB anyone who gets ticked off, and the GA as they know theres someone who will deboard and will wait to the last min to board and still get a place for their bag w/o gate checking it = giving the GA alot of leeway to work with

  2. I volunteered for a Southwest flight a few months ago and got the compensation vouchers even when the put me right back on the same flight. Of course with the open seating I really wasn’t risking much compared to the points you bring up.

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