If you travel a lot, chances are it’s happened to you — you’ve been asked to volunteer to give up your seat on an overbooked flight. You may have even been told you must give up your seat.
It doesn’t happen often; millions of people fly every day without a hitch. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that, of the more than 660 million flyers in the U.S. in 2016, just over 40,000 were involuntarily bumped.
While it’s usually just a minor inconvenience when it happens, a flight delay due to bumping is probably something you’d like to avoid. After all, you paid for that seat, you made plans around your departure and arrival times, and sitting around in airports for hours is no one’s idea of a good time. In fact, a recent survey conducted by PolicyGenius suggests Americans really, really dislike getting bumped, with 20.7% of respondents saying no amount of money — not even $10,000 — makes up for losing their seat on a flight.
So, are there things you can do to avoid being bumped in the first place? There sure are. But, since it’s in our Policygenius’ wheelhouse, let’s answer a big question about travel insurance: will it insure you keep your seat?
Travel Insurance Won’t Keep You From Getting Bumped, But …
It can help cover associated costs if you are involuntarily bumped. In a nutshell, travel insurance isn’t associated with your airline, even if you buy it while booking online through the carrier or a travel website, and isn’t used in determining who may be bumped from a flight.
However, let’s say you are delayed and need to stay in a hotel overnight because another flight isn’t available until the following day. Your travel insurance may cover reasonable costs for accommodation.
Travel insurance also can cover your expenses if your flight is canceled (or if you need to cancel), your luggage is lost or stolen, and sometimes even cover prepaid expenses for your trip, like hotel deposits that might otherwise be lost because you’ve missed the cancellation window. It also can provide medical coverages and medical evacuation while you’re out of your home country.
Essentially, there are a multitude of different travel insurance offerings available, so you may want to start by first determining whether you need travel insurance for your trip. Once you’ve done that, you can start to shop for the travel insurance policy that’s right for your personal travel plans and needs.
Now, as for minimizing the odds of getting bumped:
Checking in early helps…
It may seem silly, but checking in for your flight as soon as possible (most carriers offer online check-in for domestic flights up to 24 hours in advance) can help keep you from being bumped. It’s kind of a “first-come-first-served” approach airlines can take to determine who to bump. So set a reminder in your calendar that it’s time to check in (though your airline likely will send you an email or text).
...As does buying a full-priced fare…
Airlines also are more likely to bump people who bought less expensive tickets or tickets through a third-party website, so if it’s important to you to make your connection or destination by a specific time, you may want to book directly through the airline instead of an online discounter.
...And getting a seat assignment at booking
Be sure to go ahead and choose your seat when you book if you have the option. Note: Some international flights don’t allow for seat assignments until you arrive at the airport.
Become a mileage program member
Even if you don’t fly that often, signing up for your favorite airline’s mileage program can also give you an advantage over other flyers when it comes to getting bumped. And who knows, you may actually end up getting some free flights or upgrades out of it.
Avoid peak travel times/days
It stands to reason the more people traveling, the better the chances that someone’s going to be bumped, especially as overbooking flights is standard operating practice for airlines. So, unless you absolutely have to be there the day before Thanksgiving this year, consider traveling on Thanksgiving day or even several days in advance to ensure you get to keep your seat.
The same also goes for peak travel times on weekdays — essentially, early mornings and early evenings when the majority of business travel is taking place.
Looking to take a last-minute trip? We’ve got a 11 ways for you to save on airfare and accommodations here.