Cracking the airport travel code - Dallas News |

Cracking the airport travel code

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During the busy summer travel season, we all dread missing a flight at the airport. But that seat you booked and paid good money for may be more valuable than you think. In fact, it's so valuable that you might want to volunteer to give it up!

The airport rush – there is nothing quite like it. It is a race against time to show up, get on and take off.

But would you be willing to give it all up for the chance to cash in instead?

“It can be a great opportunity if you've got any flexibility,” said Brian Kelly, founder of

His travel site shows you how to make the most of miles.

“I just used 60,000 United miles this past fall to fly business class to the Maldives,” he said.

It also shows to take advantage of the offers.

“Most credit card sign up bonuses are 40,000 to 50,000 points,” he said.

And his latest passion is getting bumped from your flight on purpose.

In today's travel climate, airlines are fewer and planes are fuller and often oversold.

Too many passengers? Not enough seats? Volunteer yours, but not before you learn the secrets to maximize your reward.

Prepare by checking the flight first.

“If it's sold out online and they're not even selling tickets, you can be sure that it's probably oversold,” said Kelly.

That's your cue to pack everything in a carryon. It makes you a better candidate for a bump.

“If you have a ton of your checked bags and they need to pull it off the flight, it's a pain for the gate agent,” he said.

Next, let the gate agent know your plans are flexible and instead of calling for volunteers, they could just ask you.

And the best way to do it is by being nice.

“If they like you, they can hook you up like crazy,” Kelly said.

You may be used to a simple rebook and a voucher for your troubles. But Kelly says that's only a starting point.

“Firmly state what you want -- say ‘Hey, if you can do this for me right now, let’s go,” he said. “That being said, never take their first offer.”

Your compensation should be based on the delay you will face to your destination.

Get on the next flight? That’s worth about a $200 voucher. But if you have to connect or face major delays, now we are talking major money!

“Generally you're looking at $400 for domestic, $800 for international,” Kelly told us.

Ask for extra cash for cabs, meals or for a hotel if your delay requires an overnight stay.

Once you are rebooked, always ask for an upgraded seat in first class. Not only for the added comfort, but for more miles.

“Even if you were on an award ticket, you get rebooked into a revenue class and you’ll earn miles and usually at a 50 percent bonus for being in first,” Kelly said.

And finally remember, even in the air, cash is king. If an airline has to force someone off an oversold flight, they have to offer them cash. So why not offer it to you instead of a travel voucher, which may have limited flexibility.

“Especially if it's a supervisor, they can do that,” said Kelly.

First class, more miles and cash in hand -- suddenly that little delay is worth a whole lot of dollars.

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