Airplanes are more crowded than ever this summer. As you get ready to board a flight in the coming weeks, don't be surprised if you hear a gate attendant ask for volunteers to forfeit their seat.
Should you? And how much should you ask for?
Airlines not as generous
The site Consumer Affairs reports airlines are not as generous as they used to be 15 years ago, when bumping would get you a free voucher to almost anywhere.
If you settle for a $250 flight voucher (which may be the first offer they make) that's barely enough to fly you an hour away.
The report says $750 is the magic number to most fliers, where giving up your seat makes sense. That will get you a free roundtrip flight to almost anywhere in the continental United States.
Savvy business travelers, however, typically ask for well over $1,000 due to the cost of a business seat.
Questions you need to ask
Consumer Affairs reports you should always ask when the next flight you can take will depart, and if you can be guaranteed a seat on that next flight.
If that next flight, four hours later, is already full, you will have to go onto the standby list. If everyone shows up, that could domino into a travel nightmare.
In addition, travel experts suggest you ask for a free meal (even if it is just a lunch voucher) and a free hotel room if you have to spend the night. You don't want to sleep overnight in the airline terminal to catch an 8 a.m. flight.
If you can get to your destination in the next six to 12 hours and you are not trying to catch a cruise or tour bus, giving up your seat can be very lucrative. It can get you a free ticket for your next cross-country vacation.
Just don't agree to the first low-ball offer you receive, so you don't waste your money.
"Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
"Like" John Matarese on Facebook
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer reports, to to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com