Last Thursday, I was at LaGuardia for my 8:30 pm flight to Charleston, SC – hello, three-day weekend! I arrived around 7:15 and after checking in, went to the Delta Sky Club which I have access to through my American Express Platinum credit card. Surprisingly, the club was great. Great spread, great drinks, free WiFi, tons of comfortable seats – it was a welcome place to waste time, especially compared to United Clubs, where the chances of the bite-sized carrot bags being fresh are 40/60.
I left the club around 8 and made it to the gate area around 8:10. At 8:20, I walked up to the gate and noticed a small crowd of folks hanging around the agent. Since I’m normally the last one on the plane when flying coach, I was a bit surprised.
Here’s what happened when I presented my ticket for scanning:
Gate Agent: “Would you want to give up your seat for a $600 voucher?”
Me: (I paused and thought about it) “What about an $800 credit?”
Gate Agent: “Sorry, I can only do $600.”
Me: (pause again) “When is the next flight?”
Gate Agent: “Tomorrow at 9 am.”
(At this point, I’m all in. $600 to delay my flight until the next morning isn’t that big of a deal. However, before I can respond to her….)
Random Standby Guy: “I will give you $500 cash on top of whatever she gives you for your seat. I need to make it to a wedding tomorrow.”
Me: (NO PAUSE) “Sure, I will give up my seat.”
Three minutes later the guy comes back with the money and he takes my seat on the plane. Delta then comped that night at the SpringHill Suites airport hotel for me. It was somewhat silly to stay at an airport hotel in the city I live in, but I don’t usually turn down free stuff. The room was being comfortable and spacious, the staff gave me a free iPhone charger since I had forgotten mine and the breakfast had a number of healthy options. I would recommend this hotel to anyone.
And the 9 am flight the next day? Delta put me in first class, seat 1C.
With all this good luck, what else could I do but toast the weekend? The start of the trip to Charleston – also one of my top destinations for 2014 – could not have started any better!
The takeaway? Don’t get on the plane until you absolutely have to. Will this happen every time you board a plane? No. Consistently? Probably not. The voucher also has to work for you, too, as not everyone can take the extra time off work or family, for example. All I will say is that this won’t be the last time I get lucky, monetarily.
Just remember, you can’t get vouchers or cash when you’re already in your middle seat between Sharp Elbows and Garlic Breath and there’s still 40 minutes until takeoff!