How to Fly for Free

Three Methods:Receiving Travel VouchersEarning Frequent Flyer MilesUsing Airline Connections

With surges in fuel prices and baggage fees, paying for a flight can be very expensive. However, you do not always have to pay to fly. While nothing free comes easy, there are ways you can earn travel vouchers and frequent flyer miles that will get you free tickets.

Method 1
Receiving Travel Vouchers

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    Agree to be bumped. Major airlines tend to overbook their flights to compensate for passengers who may not show up. If more passengers show up than can fit on the airplane, the airline will ask for volunteers to take a different flight. To show their gratitude, they usually offer travel vouchers you can use on future flights. Just wait for an airline representative to announce that your flight has been overbooked, and then head to the counter to ask about being bumped.[1]
    • The voucher you receive will be used on your next trip, and the ticket you already purchased will be used on your current trip.
    • If you do agree to be bumped for an offer, get the offer in writing. Ask the agent to write it down, sign it and maybe add their identification number. This will help you in case there is any question about your offer.[2]
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    Volunteer to be bumped. As soon as you arrive to your flight terminal, go ahead and let the gate attendant know that you would be willing to be bumped if necessary. This way, instead of asking for volunteers, they can call your name if they end up needing to bump someone. Always be polite with the gate attendants so they are more willing to pick you to be bumped.[3]
    • Some airlines will ask you at baggage check if you are willing to be bumped, and others have an option at the electronic check-in where you can mark if you are willing to be bumped.[4]
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    Get bumped by traveling at high peak times. Airports are busiest during Friday mornings and Sunday evenings or around holidays. Traveling when airlines tend to be overbooked will increase your chances of getting bumped and receiving airline vouchers.[5]
    • Try to fly to popular destinations and international airports. These flights are also likely to be overbooked. The more popular the airport, the more crowded the flights tend to be.[6]
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    Book flights that have multiple stops. Flights that require you to connect to other flights before your final destination can help increase your chances of either missing a flight, having a cancelled flight, or getting bumped along the way. When this happens, you will most likely be offered a travel voucher.
    • Pack lightly and avoid checking any bags. This way, if you get bumped to another flight, you will be ready to go. If you do check your bag to a different flight, you may have to wait a couple of days before you get your luggage.
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    Stay with one airline. It is easier to accumulate flying vouchers and frequent flyer miles if you keep using the same airline. By showing your loyalty, you may be eligible for extra perks and upgrades too.[7]
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    Find companies that offer promotional vouchers. Some airline companies offer free or discounted vouchers for flight tickets. To find these deals, you need to look into airline benefits offered by different credit card companies on airline websites.
    • The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card offered by American Express offers a free companion voucher each year for their customers that you can apply toward a flight ticket.[8]
    • Watch out for bad deals. Some promotions require you to book through obscure travel agencies. Also, you may end up paying at least double the price of the ticket before you qualify for a "free" ticket.
    • Watch for deals that have blackout dates and capacity restrictions. You may not want to pursue offers that have too many limitations.

Method 2
Earning Frequent Flyer Miles

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    Earn miles by using your credit card. If you choose a credit card that offers miles based on the money you spend, then you can end up flying for free. Once you have a travel rewards credit card with mileage rewards, use the card on all of your purchases. This is the fastest way to accumulate free miles. Just be sure to pay more than your minimum monthly payment each month or else your miles earned will be worth a fraction of the interest you will accumulate.[9]
    • For a typical rewards program, you may receive 1 mile (1.6 km) for every $1 spent.[10]
    • Delta offers a MileagePlus program that has been named the world's best frequent flyer program by Global Traveler magazine.[11]
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    Apply for a credit card that offers a signing bonus. Some credit cards offer hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles just for choosing them. Do your due diligence, and shop around to find the best deals.[12]
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    Earn flyer miles by shopping at online malls. Some airlines partner with certain popular department sores, home improvement stores, and other major online retailers where customers can earn extra miles when they make purchases. These malls can be found by checking on the airline's website. Here are several stores that have offered miles for purchases in the past:[13]
    • Crate and Barrel
    • Best Buy
    • The Container Store
    • Sears
    • Target
    • Walmart
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    Get miles through airline promotions. When airlines are trying to gain more attention or beat out a competitor, they may offer extra miles to customers who fly certain flights. Usually, they will offer extra miles only for certain time blocks or destinations, but it is an easy way to accumulate flyer miles.
    • Sing up for an airline's email list so you can be notified when they have promotional deals.[14]
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    Watch for incentives offered by businesses. Many businesses are now trying to get your business by offering incentives like frequent flyer miles. Watch for deals offered by companies that you may want to take advantage of.
    • For example, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity gave away frequent flyer miles for those who opened a non retirement brokerage account.[15]

Method 3
Using Airline Connections

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    Work for an airline. Flight crews and most other airline employees receive free flight benefits. The perks range depending on the airline. Some airlines give two free flight tickets for their employees each year, and other airlines give discounted tickets that can be as much as a 90% reduction off the full ticket price.[16]
    • Southwest airline allows employees, spouses, eligible dependent children, and parents to fly on Southwest planes for free.[17]
    • American Airlines allow all of their employees to travel for free in coach class.[18]
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    Find someone who works for an airline. Some airlines will offer their employees flight vouchers for family and friends. In recent years, airlines have tightened their policies on these types of vouchers, but they are still out there.[19]
    • Southwest Airlines has a guest pass program that gives unregistered friends and family members of employees a chance to fly for free.[20]
    • American Airlines has a program that allows employees to register family members who can then fly for free.[21]
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    Fly standby. Some airline companies give their employees buddy passes to hand out to family and friends. However, the passes are only good as standby tickets. This means that you can only fly if there is an empty seat on the plane.[22]
    • Delta offers buddy passes to their employees.[23]
    • When using a buddy pass, you are seen as a representative of the airline. You are required to have a relaxed dress code, and maintain professional behavior.[24]
    • Be prepared for the flight you want to take to be full. You may have to wait for several flights before you find one that has room for you.
    • It is best not to check any luggage when flying standby because you don't know which flight out you will take.
    • Fly during slower times to increase your chances of making it on the plane.


  • If you plan to be bumped, pack a change of clothes in your carry-on bag in case you must wait for a long time.
  • If you are bumped and had a special meal ordered that cannot be transferred to your new flight, request a meal voucher.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Air Travel | Reduce Travel Cost