Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Are airline vouchers worth it?

Are airline vouchers worth the effort?

My wife and I returned from a trip and were scheduled on an early morning flight. As it turned out, the airport was packed, the flight was overbooked, and the rep at the desk called for any volunteers to accept a later flight. I immediately jumped up and volunteered us. They gave us a $400 voucher each. That ends up being a couple of round trip tickets to basically anywhere for free.

We always take these opportunities. What surprised me is that no one else took them up on the offer. The next flight was an hour later, not a bad wait at all. Yet the had to repeatedly request volunteers (maybe everyone was holding out for them to increase the voucher value?). That never happened, but eventually they managed to get enough people signed on.

Is it worth it? I can imagine for a business professional, who needs to arrive when he is expected to, missing a flight is not an option. For most people on vacation however, why not? A simple phone call can adjust any pick up time you have arranged, and what difference does a few hours make?

My wife was a little reluctant because we intended to use the vouchers for our Christmas trip. She remembers all the black out dates and restrictions on her miles rewards and was worried we couldn't use them. A call to Continental revealed that the vouchers were valid for any flight!

Several years ago when we were in Las Vegas, we sat at the crowded airport with overbooked flights. Our original flight requested volunteers, then the flight they moved us to requested them, and then the airline again was overbooked. In fact, the last flight was overbooked. We ended up with $3,000 in vouchers between the two of us, around 6 total free flights. As if it couldn't get better, we went back to the hotel (the Vegas Hilton) and told them we had waited at the airport all day and ended up allowing ourselves to be bumped and our next flight wasn't until tomorrow, and asked if they had another open room we could stay in. They did, and they gave it to us for free!

So far I have had nothing but good fortune with airline vouchers and Continental. Based on your own experiences, are they worth it?

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