“Ladies and gentlemen, this flight has been oversold…” is like music to my ears. What that is saying that I may be able to volunteer to take a later flight in exchange for a travel voucher that is worth over $100 for future travels. This is called “getting bumped” or “taking the bump”. The voucher is usually good for 12 months after the date of issuance and is usually only valid for travel on the same airline (i.e. no codeshares). I was lucky enough to get a $500 travel voucher for taking a later flight on my way home from a business trip. I was traveling with my boss who did not have a problem with me showing up late the next morning (you may not be so lucky, of course).
What is an Airline Travel Voucher?
There are many different vouchers you may receive. They are Voluntary Denied Boarding (VDB or DV) as described above, Involuntary Denial (DI) if you were picked to get bumped but didn’t volunteer, Baggage related issues, non-weather-related flight delays, and other various reasons. They are good for travel on that airline only. When I initially received my voucher, I was told the airline’s metal only; which means no partners or codeshares. I have since heard that this isn’t the case but I have not been able to verify it.
How to Use an Airline Travel Voucher
Once I finally settled on which flights I wanted to take, I put them on hold online and called the reservation desk. The travel voucher cannot be used online so I wouldn’t have to pay a fee to book it over the phone (at least on American Airlines). The phone call was quick and the reservation rep just took down some of my information, including payment information. Since the flight was more than the voucher amount, I had to pay the remaining cost. I was told where to mail (yes, snail mail) the voucher and that I would only be charged once they processed the voucher and ticketed the reservation. I was advised to take a picture or make a copy of the voucher before I sent it, which I was going to do anyway. They process vouchers by departure date so it took them a while to process mine. However, since it remains unticketed changes can be made. Even though I didn’t want to change the flights, I still kept an eye on the price to see if it went down at all (which, of course, it did not).
I learned several lessons the hard way after I called the initial time. Doing some quick research, I learned that since my voucher was for less than the base fare, the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax is adjusted to apply to only the base fare that I am paying. After being passed from department to department, I found out that it is definitely the Reservations desk that I had to speak to (don’t let them tell you otherwise) since it is pre-departure. You may have to get the rep to talk to the rate desk to confirm this. I called the reservations desk and they said I had to wait for it to be ticketed – I have since been told that this may not be the case but have also heard otherwise. As soon as I got an email that my reservation was ticketed, I called the reservations desk and after they spoke to the rate desk they said I would receive a partial refund of the taxes. I wasn’t told how long it would take. Not seeing anything on my credit card account, I called again 14 days later. I was then told that it could take up to 30 days but since I hadn’t left yet that I shouldn’t worry. Come the day before Thanksgiving, and I still hadn’t received the refund. I called again only to be told that it should only take 7-10 days but that the refund wasn’t actually sent to be processed. Sure enough I was refunded the money two days after that.
While it all worked out in the end, I’m still not sure what some of those agents were looking at. Bottom line, when using a voucher make sure you are being charged the correct amount on your initial call. If you realize you weren’t, stay on the ball and make sure the phone agents do what they say they are going to do.