Good morning friends, I’m writing to you from the illustrious Four Points by Sheraton Mall of American Minneapolis Airport, famously located not particularly close to neither the Mall of America nor Minneapolis Airport. It was a long day yesterday, I was up around 4am to fly out from DFW Airport at 7am to Nashville, then Chicago, then Minneapolis.
I should’ve flown on from Minneapolis to Iceland last night…but I didn’t. And the following is why I didn’t mind.
First of all, the ticket I booked
I needed to take some time off of work, since I’m not tracking towards using all of my vacation days by the time our vacation resets. I was looking for good fares to Iceland, because why not, and a few days ago I found a decent fare out of Chicago to Keflavik, connecting in Minneapolis. It was $465 in Delta Basic Economy, a good deal (not a great one), so I went ahead and booked it.
Fares to Chicago were ridiculous so I ended up booking an American award from DFW to BNA to ORD and then picked up the Delta revenue flight from there. The flight from ORD to MSP was nonchalant and I showed up at my gate to head over to Iceland.
What happened at Gate F8
I was sitting there catching up on social media when I heard the first call, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in an oversold situation and are looking for volunteers, if you’re interested in taking a flight tomorrow for a $500 voucher please contact a gate agent.”
No big deal, right? We’ve all heard of that happening. For me, though, $500 didn’t really move the needle much for me, since I had to come back on Tuesday and had some nonrefundable bookings in Iceland.
The next time the representative from Delta spoke, though, she said something almost unbelievable.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we need THIRTY volunteers to move their flight to another day. We’re offering $700 vouchers, please contact the gate agent etc. etc.”
Whoa. Thirty volunteers for a flight that departs once a day is crazy. I had a feeling the vouchers could end up getting crazy too.
A quick aside: how did they overbook by thirty?!
I later asked the gate agent how they overbooked by so many. It turns out the weather en route was the cause. They got the call that the Delta 757 they were using for the flight was overweight due to the extra fuel they would need to take in order to have the proper fuel safety minimums so they needed to offload thirty passengers.
Back to the gate
Thirty volunteers is a LOT. I was worried they would have to involuntarily move people and figured I’d be first in line if they did. I did some math in my head and approached the gate agent, telling her I’d move to a flight a day later for $1500 and a hotel. She needed to ask around but eventually said absolutely!
I was excited, $1500 more than paid for the inconvenience of eating a night at the guesthouse I had booked and shortening my trip by a day.
…but they still needed more volunteers. A lot more.
They offered $1500. Then $2000. They finally started getting more volunteers at $2500.
(quick aside: common practice in situations like this, on most carriers, is to pay everyone the highest voucher amount that anyone got, so I wasn’t annoyed that the amounts kept creeping up)
They still needed more volunteers but finally were able to secure the right number of people and get their bags off the plane. I had heard them talking about $3000 or $3500 being the highest it went. After an hour of standing around while the Delta folks sorted things out, I finally got my voucher receipt.
They paid us each $4500 to take a flight the next day. A family of five made $22500. I’ve never seen anything like it on that scale.
I actually did some journalism for once and asked one of the Delta representatives how much they had paid out and they said $180000 between the vouchers and hotel stays for those affected.
Delta Choice Gift Cards – the even better part
Instead of just the same old flight vouchers, Delta now offers a cool program called Delta Choice Gift Cards, where you’re given a voucher amount and can split that voucher across a variety of gift cards. Delta is, of course, an option, but so is a simple gift card from Visa or American Express so you can use the voucher like cash. They also have specific vendor cards like Best Buy, Bloomingdale’s, Amazon, and plenty of others.
The interesting way Delta rebooked us
Flights to Iceland are super full right now, so I was worried Delta wouldn’t be able to rebook me on a flight out the next day, in which case my trip would be ruined and I would just head home. Delta was innovative though, one of the managers there had been speaking with Delta HQ in Atlanta and they came up with the idea of switching the next day’s flight to a 767, which could easily accommodate all of us who had been displaced.
It took some time to get everything figured out (including calling the station manager in Reykjavik and waking them up to verify they could take the plane), but now I’m holding a boarding pass for a flight to Iceland on a 767 tonight with $4500 of fun money to spend on more travel! Not too bad for booking a $465 ticket three days ago!
(Props to the Delta folks for handling the situation well. Granted, giving everyone $4500 has a way of keeping them happy, but the Delta staff communicated well with us as things were changing on their end, which is the number one thing I ask for in a situation like this.)
What’s the highest voucher amount you’ve ever seen, and did you take it? Tell me in the comments below!
I was once offered $3k to fly the two days later on a flight to EWR from AUS via DFW in 2012 but I couldn’t do so because I was going to my cousin’s wedding (would’ve missed it completely) I was bummed but I prob would’ve received a ton of backlash. I guess some things are more valuable than $$$ ♂️
That’s awesome – esp if turned into an Amex Gift Card. I bet you could have pushed for flat bed Delta One on the 767 too!
Very very nice, Andy!
Biggest amount I was offered was years ago before vouchers started getting crazy. It was $2,500 to fly the next day from Tel Aviv to Newark but I had to be home that day so had to pass. Ouch! But, $4,500 is just huge!
Wow! Congrats on the awesome windfall. I’m heading to Iceland in a month (out of Minneapolis but on FI). As much as I would get annoyed at having to reshuffle plans, this is a no brainer and am hoping for the same.
Anything you’re going to splurge on in Iceland now or just use on a future trip?
20 years ago I was offered and accepted an $800 voucher on United to delay my return from Heathrow to Dulles by 3 hours!
First, I’m glad it ended up well. Not just well, but awesome. Especially for that family! Holy cow.
But I have to ask:
“Flights to Iceland are super full right now, so I was worried Delta wouldn’t be able to rebook me on a flight out the next day, in which case my trip would be ruined and I would just head home.”
With that known already- you took the voucher at $1,500.
You were willing to be out the $465 flight + the points to get to ORD + the non refundable things in Iceland + having to backtrack through that Brutal routing of 4 airports + a night at an airport hotel + missing your entire vacation.
All for $1,500?
I thought the DFW-BNA-ORD-MSP for positioning to save a few bucks was insane.
But that’s even more insane. You’re fortunate Lady Luck shined her light on you.
Yep, my out of pocket was $465 at that point so I was willing to play for a $1000 gain.
wow good job!
Congrats I got $5000 out of UA post Dao dragging for a downgrade due to a broken premium seat – domestic flight
When I was in college almost 20 years ago, I took four successive bumps from CVG to LAX at $400/each ($1,600 total). Redeemed them for a trip to Germany before starting my summer job at the end of the semester.
Wow. They wouldn’t even give a a drink or lunch voucher for me being 7+ hrs late to my destination, because they sold my seat (and several other people’s) from under me, even though I (we all were) was at the (layover) terminal on time…
Ugh I’m sorry to hear that!
This is a real feel good story, after 2020 we are all happy for you, hopefully you enjoyed yourself,Jamaica next
“I actually did some journalism for once” 🙂
“common practice in situations like this, on most carriers, is to pay everyone the highest voucher amount that anyone got, so I wasn’t annoyed that the amounts kept creeping up)”.
While this is still true today, some airlines are experimenting with doing the volunteer process via the airline app and giving each pax only whatever amount they agree to. So don’t count on the airline to continue to “pay everyone the highest voucher amount that anyone got”.
Absolutely, and I think it’s a terrible movement.
Andy crazy story. I have never gotten more than $500!