10 things to know about getting bumped off a plane — and how to get compensated handsomely

By Laura Begley Bloom


1. Consider the timing. Airlines routinely overbook flights with the assumption that a certain percentage of passengers will cancel. Flights during busy travel seasons (hello spring break!) and the last flight of the day are more likely to be overbooked. In that case, the airline will ask for volunteers to give up their seats or bump passengers to another flight.

2. Know your rightsThe U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to compensate you by law if you are bumped off a plane, even if you’re bumped involuntarily. Insist on being paid. If your delay doesn't exceed an hour and the airline puts you on another flight, you're not entitled to compensation. Be aware that the rules go out the window with weather-related delays or delays for safety reasons; rules also vary outside the U.S. Whatever you do, don't arrive at your gate late. The airlines can use this as a way to avoid compensating you. I saw this happen to a family of four who lingered at the restaurant too long and lost their seats when they weren't at the gate 15 minutes before departure time. The airline gave away their seats to people on the standby list. No gift cards for them. (And probably no vacation, either.)

3. Do your research. If your flight still has available seats, it probably won’t get overbooked. If the flight is close to full or sold out, there are increased odds that the airline will bump passengers.

4. Ask! When you get to the gate, head straight to the agent and see if the airline is looking for volunteers. Tell them you only want to give up your seat for a good offer.

5. Don't stray too far from the podium. You don’t want to miss the call for volunteers and you want to be the first person to volunteer when the gate agent offers a good figure.

6. Be careful. A guy on one of our flights said he might be interested in volunteering when he wasn’t really sure. The gate agent took that at face value and gave his seat away. He changed his mind and regretted it, but it was too late. If the airline doesn’t end up needing as many seats, it can also break up families. Once you volunteer, the airline can take away your seat — and make your partner or child fly without you.

7. Don’t get too greedy. Some airlines (as we encountered with Delta) conduct auctions. The airline will give preference to people who volunteer for less.  

8. Consider the form of compensation. Some airlines offer travel vouchers; some offer cash or gift cards. Think about what makes the most sense. Some flight vouchers expire within a year; some gift cards expire even sooner. Cash is the best bet if you can get it.

9. Don’t check luggage. My suitcase went to Fort Lauderdale without me. Same thing happened to another family, whose luggage was filled with frozen Passover dishes (they said that their $5,000+ in compensation was sufficient to let the food spoil). The airline says I will get my suitcase back, and I am hopeful. Lesson learned: Fly with carryon bags. It makes it easier if you get rerouted or cancel the flight.

10. Above all, be nice! After hanging out at the counter for hours and hours over the course of two days, I began to notice some trends. Screaming doesn’t work. Crying doesn’t work. Being nice? Now, that works. My husband bought lunch for a couple of gate agents who mentioned that they had worked through their break. I brought water to another agent who said he had come to work at 3 a.m. to help out and was dehydrated. These airline employees went above and beyond to help us out. 

Spring Break 2017 Travel Tips

Spring Break is coming!

Traveling during spring break can be utter chaos for some; where as others seem to travel without a glitch. Here are some easy spring break travel trips that can save you time, money, and help you make the best of your spring vacation, because we all know it is a much-needed break!

Stretch your dollar.

  • Book a hotel with complimentary breakfast. I can’t think of a better way to start your vacation than with a free breakfast each morning. Now you only have to budget for lunch and dinner. Another great way to save money is to find a hotel room that has a fridge or microwave. This is a great way to save money on snacks, drinks etc., so you are not constantly dishing out cash every time you need to curb your appetite or quench your thirst! If you have little ones, you can stock up on juice boxes, bottled water, yogurts and even milk for cereal. You can even stock up and keep your favorite adult beverages chilled.
  • Another great budget tip is to participate in free activities. Call the local Chamber of Commerce and ask about events that are free and child-friendly or specific to what you are interested in. Sometimes there are free community concerts or events happening while you are visiting.

Some basics that are worth reminding.

  • Check-in early at the airport. It will be busy.
  • Drink lots of water; especially for those of us who are not used to tropical climates. Many people can get heat exhaustion if they don’t.
  • Try to travel and stay in groups. Don’t forget to look out for each other.
  • Always keep an eye on your drink, and know your limits.
  • Wear Sunscreen! Sunburns can easily turn a tropical vacation into something miserable. Don’t let it happen to you.

Make the most of your time.

  • VIP theme park passes can be pricey but can be essential if you are going to a theme park this Spring Break. These passes can give you back-door access to all of the rides without the hour long lines and congestion of the park.
  • Get travel insurance. Take the stress and worry away when those traveling nuances happen to you. Were your flights delayed? Did they lose your luggage? It helps to know that you are covered and most plans come with a 24/7 helpline so you are able to enjoy your vacation.
  • Don’t forget your camera or video camera so that you can re-live your vacation anytime you want!

For the best worry-free vacation, Call Flathead Travel Service 406-752-8700. We’ve been there!

Hawaii Resolutions

February… usually a great time of year to check in and see how your New Year resolutions are going?

If we are being honest…I could be more diligent about hitting the gym.

If you are like me and millions of others that have set goals for 2015 and are feeling guilty about not being able to keep with it, I may have found a solution!

Do something for yourself and plan a trip to Hawaii where you can tackle all of your New Year resolutions at once!

Get Movin’: Relish in the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands and the numerous outdoor activities for any age and lifestyle! Enjoy a hike on one of the many trails through the lush rainforest of Iao Valley State Park located in central Maui. Or, if you are feeling adventurous you must try Zip-lining above Akaka Falls right outside of Hilo, Hawaii. If you are wanting to venture out into the ocean, try the sunset cruise that leaves from Kona, Hawaii where you can actually swim with the manta rays at night. It is incredible!

De-Stress: Sometimes we just need to take a moment, pause and breathe. There is not a better place to relax and unwind than some of the remote areas in Hawaii. Disconnect from technology for a few hours and listen to the sounds of the brilliant crashing waves on the North Shore of Oahu, or recharge your spirit at the Fairmont Kea Lani spa. If you want to stay at a property that is secluded try the Hana Hotel on Maui.

Expand your mind: There are several historical sites and cultural museums for you to learn something new while on your vacation. Journey to the Grand Canyon of the Pacific –Waimea Canyon is a geological wonder on Kauai. If you love history, you will not want to miss the Polynesian Cultural Center to learn more about the Polynesian history and influence on the Hawaiian Islands. Or, tour the famous Pearl Harbor Historical site on Oahu and remember those who fought and died that day.

Refresh and rejuvenate your life by vacationing in Hawaii. Your physical and mental health depend on it!

Perks of Having a Travel Agent

In an age where everyone can turn to the internet to book their flights or hotels some might question, “Why use a Travel Agent?” Our specialists at Flathead Travel Service can offer expert advice on the best cruises, tour packages to remote locales, and how to receive our exclusive perks that are only offered by travel agents.

Through my blog’s posts and other contributing agents, I aim to share our personal opinions about the finest travel destinations, how to receive hidden discount prices and unique travel opportunities for all ages and types of travelers. My hope is that our posts inspire you to begin your own travels and adventures. We are here for you to plan that dream vacation that fits your desires and budget. More importantly, when you use a travel agent you will have a travel adviser who advocates for you in the event of a travel inconvenience or disaster.

Start your journey!