Has the Delta bump rules changed the way you volunteer your seat? It has for me!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


It is hard to believe it has been over two years since Delta, in an effort to prevent “abuse” that is, flyers selling their bump vouchers, has changed the rules on who can use and spend a bump voucher.

Back in “the day” you could, at times, bump from one flight to the next and husband and wife could collect them all and use up to 3 ETVs per ticket. Yours, hers, or even a friends – you betcha – they could all be used on the same new tickets and spent just as cash.

The problem for Delta was that many people did not want to fly Delta and use them. They were more than happy to, for say 75% or so of face value, sell them on eBay or such. This made Delta very mad as many times you see these vouchers would go unused by the expiration date and that was very good for Delta. The way you fix that was to make it much harder to redeem them by limiting them to ONLY the flyer who got them.

Fast forward to yesterday. My ATL-SEA flight was oversold by 3. So much so that I later learned they had to remove 3 passengers from the flight. OUCH. That makes flyers REALLY unhappy and costs Delta (and DAL shareholders btw) a bunch of money and the rules for forcefully removing passengers are much worse that voluntary bumps.

Here is where this little story gets interesting. I had put in a request to bump at check-in via the automated system. However, the paper bump list at the gate took precedent. Now that makes me most upset. Not just that, but I offerred to give up my seat for FREE if they could get us both on to Hawaii in business class on the next available flights. No doing as the paper list took precedence  so we boarded the flight (hello Delta IT at it’s finest – why even have the online volunteer option at all) ?

I even tracked down a red coat but nothing doing there. I did not hang around the gate to board last for a better shot at a great bump for two main reasons. The first was that I could not combine my vouchers so they are worth much less to me than before. The next was the fact since Delta does not in any way enforce the “Size Check” for bags I knew if I did wait and was not needed I would have to gate check my carry-on bags; that is a most frustrating event IMO and affects my choice to give up my seat.

Lastly, I have had way too many readers tell me that when they have offered up their seats the great seat they had was no longer available once they were NOT needed and they ended up flying middle seat last row (I am exaggerating but not by much)! Sloppy GA’s (gate agents) does have an impact on my desire to give up my seat. Are you less likely to give up your seats now-a-days with the current ETV rules? – René

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Very true, I have been told I may be needed. I waited at the gate during boarding as instructed then was handed a boarding pass in coach when I had been in first. Made me reevaluate why I volunteer in the first place.

  2. Great points all around, but for the record you weren’t giving up your seat for free if you asked for Business Class seats in exchange. You wanted Business Class seats as payment for giving up your current seats. Agreed they should have taken the bait vs. upgrading someone to those seats and keeping booked revenue passengers on your first flight.

    Win some, lose some.


    I was taking 8-10 bumps a year. I’ve only took one since they changed the rules…..not worth my time anymore.

    • @MSPDELTADUDE – thank you SO much for you comment. THIS is what I am talking about. THIS is why I think they should soften the rules to allow combine in the same household ie same address as Skymiles member. That way it fixes issues with last names +1 etc as it has to be the SAME address for all who share ETVs! Simple fix and would change everything! Or?

  4. Makes me wonder what the 3 folks involuntarily taken off received. Hawaii? I’m sooooo jealous!

  5. interesting about the great seat. on my ATL-LAX flight last week, at the last minute a guy ended up sitting next to me in Economy Comfort middle seat. Poor guy, he was about 6’3″ and a pretty good sized guy. He told me that he had volunteered to fly into LAX instead of John Wayne because the Delta gate folks told him he would get 1st class. He didn’t ask for a voucher. When he got to the gate of course there was no 1st class left(I was 23rd on the list GM, Reserve) so no surprise but he definitely got suckered. I bought him a drink as I already had a free coupon.

    The lack of combinability of vouchers and not being able to transfer them to my kids or spouse is very frustrating.

    I’m proud of Delta becoming so profitable and well run. However, for a while the service tanked, then it got better. Now, I am seeing a decline again. The Skyclubs have definitely gone down and when you think about the restrictions for access being increased they will also lay off employees. Then there’s the outsourcing issues. Come on Richard Anderson, I’m a business owner and there is a point of diminishing returns. Trust me Richard, Delta has reached it. I’m giving serious consideration to my loyalty including my TWO Delta AMEX’s. The value ain’t what it used to be.

  6. I have had very good and very bad experiences with betting bumped:

    The best: My wife and I volunteered to get bumped in Bangor, Main on our way home from the honeymoon. Delta gave us both $400 vouchers and 10,000 skymiles each when the realized it was our honeymoon.

    Worst: I volunteered to take a $450 voucher to give up a first economy comfort row window seat. Turns out, they didn’t need me to take another flight so I had to gate check my bag and flew last row in the plane against the bulkhead as there is no window for the last row of the MD-88. No voucher. No Economy Comfort. No window. No recline. And I had to check my bag to my final destination. I asked for a HOOU – No luck there either!

  7. GM Jeff Mc Reply

    I always wondered about the electronic volunteer list. Does not surprise me with Delta’s crack IT team. I gave my seat up 2x last year (Sept & Dec). I only do it if they do it immediately (no waiting at the gate until all are on-board). You are right it ALL depends upon the GAs. When it appears the flight is full, I ask the GA if they are looking for volunteers – preferably BEFORE they make an announcement. The last one I volunteered for, the GA was so happy she did not have to announce, she allowed me to state my price ($600 max allowed right?), double meal vouchers ($10 does not go far in airports anymore), and confirmed first class on next flight out.

    Combining not such a deal killer, gives me more reason to take more flights or take my wife along if multiple certs needing to be used. Deal killer is back of plane middle seats – have not done that in YEARS and is a phobia of mine now!!

  8. Darth CHhocolate Reply

    I never take a bump. As a PM, I am never forced off. When I get on a plane, it is because I need to get there by a specific time.

    If you play the “bump” game, expect to be [edit]. Never volunteer; get forced off and get something worthwhile.

  9. FirstInFlight Reply

    Sometimes it is beyond Delta’s control. I flew ATL-MAN in BE. At the last minute a group of 5 air marshalls showed up. The GA boarded them – all into BE. she then was short one BE seat. We were delayed 45 minutes while they tried to find a volunteer in BE. Finally they IDB a guy – who was pretty upset and said he was a DM on a paid BE ticket. The GA called ATL police – quite a scene.

  10. Its NOT FREE is you want an UPGRADE to “c” class on the next flight unless you were already booked in “c” instead of “y”. And for years the list at the gate always has been the one they go off unless the automated machine offers you an option right then and there.

    • @kort – It is “free” to Delta as they are only giving up an empty seat that would have gone for a medallion upgrade anyway. Delta does tell us the online volunteering should put you 1st in line but in practice we know otherwise.

  11. Darth Chocolate Reply

    The best way to handle the involuntary bump is to

    1) Accept your fate. Nothing you say or do will help the situation. And given the paranoia of the flying public, making a big scene can get you tossed in jail.

    2) Take the compensation. Insist on the next flight at the class of service you booked. Or have the difference refunded to you in cash (not the phony credit slips).

    3) Firmly, but politely, lodge a complaint with the carrier through their website (it creates a written record). Especially true if you are in a high status tier.

  12. Did they bump the guy off the flight, or downgrade him to coach?

  13. I can see how the inability to combine vouchers would affect an infrequent flyer or a business traveler who rarely pays for his own tickets, but why in the world do you care so much? Don’t you take enough personal trips each year to exhaust vouchers one at a time? What’s the difference if you spend them at once or over time?

  14. And, how many folks did delta bump to take the University of Florida basketball team? None – because the told the flight it was weather related.

  15. Don in ATL Reply

    Here is another failing of the IT online list vs the paper list at the gate. For the waiting list for upgrades (if you have a coupon or have used miles to upgrade), the list is different at the gate than it is online or with DL reservations. For months before the flight (I had a qualifying fare and an upgrade coupon), I was on the waiting list. Reservations confirmed this to me many times. On the morning of the flight before I left home, the DL PM phone reservations line confirmed I was on the upgrade wait list. When I got to the airport and inquired at the SkyClub, I was not on the list. I was a bit angry after months of being told I was on the list. It was explained to me that the online list doesn’t matter on the day of departure– they start a new list at the airport. I added my name to the list but by this time I was at the bottom. I called DM reservations and they did not know there was an airport list for day of departure. They still insisted that I had been on the wait list. Talk about one arm not knowing what the other arm was doing.

  16. Pingback: Another reason to say no to a bump * Op -Ups - Delta Points

  17. Will Riddle Reply

    This explains why I never get asked to volunteer. Almost every time it prompts me at the terminal, I enter something, recently I started trying low-ball numbers to see if I would get selected. Nothing. And I never hear them call over the intercom, even on those “full” flights. Sounds like people are coming to the gate agent to volunteer, and those people are “first” not the reverse auction. Any one else confirm this experience?

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