How to Score a Hefty Travel Voucher

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Unforeseen flight mishaps can sometimes lead to travel freebies.

Travelers are not always guaranteed the best travel experience when flying. Unlucky mishaps such as flight delays, overbooked flights, lost luggage, and cancellations happen and can leave travelers stranded, late for significant events, or reluctant to ever fly that airline again. But, it’s not all bad news. With the right information, you can snag a travel voucher and be compensated for your troubles.

Delayed/Cancelled Flights

The United States (unlike the European Union) does not have specific regulations that protect passengers with regard to flight issues. Luckily, if you are flying out of the US and into the EU, your airline must follow the policy in Europe. It’d be wise to look over this policy because the compensation is up to $700 USD.

This policy is:

  • If your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline
  • If your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
  • If your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline

Airlines like United Airlines and American Airlines have been known to give flight vouchers.

For delayed flights, passengers have the right to assistance including meals, refreshments, 2 free phone calls, emails, or faxes. In the event of cancellation, passengers are entitled to reimbursement, return, or re-routing. Additionally, you are also entitled to assistance and the right to compensation if a cancellation happens under EU policy.

If you are not traveling to the EU, the best way to receive any voucher is to simply ask. Airlines like United Airlines and American Airlines have been known to give flight vouchers. These vouchers are not just for flights. You can also ask for vouchers for hotel accommodations or food.  These type of vouchers are not automatically given nor should you expect all US airlines to do so. Each airline has its own policies that affect domestic and international travel, differently.

If found in a position to obtain a voucher, ask a gate agent.

Oversold Flights

In the event that the airline has sold more tickets than there are available seats, they’ll ask if anyone would like to voluntarily give up their seat. If you just happen to be a thoughtful traveler that doesn’t mind getting off the flight, the airline will offer you a travel voucher and place you on the next available flight to your destination. You can also request to be placed on a “bump list” upon reaching your departure gate. A bump list is a tab of confirmed-ticketed passengers on a flight that will not be allowed to board or will be asked to deplane in the event a flight is oversold.

You can also be involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight. Yes, removed from an oversold flight, at random. Involuntary bumping happens when no one wants to volunteer to give up their seat. If this is ever the case, do not accept a voucher. This is the airline’s mistake and they owe you cash.

Baggage Issues

There’s not a day that goes by when an airline doesn’t put a bag on the wrong flight, lose it, or damage it beyond repair. If these things happen to you, you may be owed compensation.

Damaged: If your bag is damaged, typically the airline will pay for the luggage. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation has set a maximum liability amount of $3,500 (airlines can compensate more based on their discretion).

Delayed: When your luggage is delayed, airlines will try to reunite you with your luggage as soon as it arrives. In the event that it has to be delivered to you after you leave the airport (because it will take more than a day for your luggage to arrive to you), the airline may offer you a travel voucher that you can put towards travel with the same airline.

Lost: For US domestic flights, an airline can offer up to $3,500. For international flights, the Montreal Convention states that an airline can give up to $1,600 but airlines are at liberty to provide more. Airlines may, typically, ask for receipts and also reimburse any fees you paid out to the airline to transport your luggage. To get this compensation, you typically have to file a claim with the airline. The claim can take from a few weeks up to a few months to resolve.

Credit Card Benefits

Some credit cards have built-in protections and insurance that offer compensation when cardholders have to deal with headaches and airline mishaps. These credit cards are typically crowd favorites of travelers.

Here are a few popular credit cards that offer delayed/lost luggage insurance automatically:

The Catch

Travel vouchers, unlike cash, have an expiration date and must be used within an allotted time frame. Vouchers do not cover the taxes and extraneous fees that accompany the cost of a flight. Also, if the voucher is worth more than the flight you purchase, you may not be able to use the remaining balance of the voucher like you would a gift card. It’s always best to double-check with the airline before you use your voucher.