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Traveling for Free on Free Airline Travel Vouchers

My wife and I traveled to see my parents last weekend and on the way back the flight was oversold. The gate agent announced a request for volunteers willing to travel on the next flight in exchange for a $300 voucher and dinner coupons to be used at the airport.  The airline oversold by 16 seats and we ended up taking the deal.

Similar to hotels and other businesses that sell services based on a fixed capacity, airlines have algorithms they engage to manage passenger flight bookings.  Each airline has a threshold, or appetite that is acceptable to it for the number of seats oversold on any given route.  The algorithm is made of a wide array of variables such as average price paid per ticket, average profit per seat/airline mile, etc.

Based on this algorithm, airlines can afford to offer some compensation for those willing to give up their seat. For us these are always exciting times because we get to travel for free. Who doesn’t want free stuff?

I have realized in my years as a professional and now an entrepreneur that no matter how much wealth one accumulates or however rich one gets, everyone is still elated when they get something for free, even if it is a $10 free lunch. It is human nature.

As for my wife and I, we travel quite a bit and we must have accumulated thousands of dollars over time in free airline travel vouchers by volunteering for such opportunities.  I know I have just accounting for my personal travels.

For example, once on my way to Las Vegas, the airline was looking for volunteers and started off by offering $350. But because not many were volunteering and the flight was badly oversold, I was eventually able to negotiate a $600 voucher plus a free hotel night at the airport along with meal vouchers.

On my way from JFK in New York to Dubai, I was offered a free international roundtrip ticket good for a year because Emirates oversold by 1 and I was the only willing volunteer. My sister lived in New York at the time so it gave me a chance to take a quick cab ride to meet her for a few hours before the next flight at night. Same thing on my way to London and Canada.

When I was employed as a consultant, I remember getting a $850 voucher for giving up my seat from Dallas to Monterey, Mexico.  Similarly, there have been many instances where either myself or both my wife and I have scored free airline travel vouchers by volunteering to take the next flight out. Traveling for free has become a bad habit 🙂

How to Travel for Free Using Free Airline Travel Vouchers

I can’t say I have deliberately planned my travel around the best opportunities to get free airline travel vouchers, but a good friend of mine has used the system very well to score free travel frequently. Frank – you know it!  Here are some ways you can deliberately plan your travel to maximize the potential for free airline travel vouchers:

Book busy flights – the most obvious way to increase your chances of getting bumped is by booking busy flights.  There are websites like FlightStats that provide all kinds of flight related information that can help you gauge while flights often sell out or are just regularly busy.  On the day of your travel, call the airline reservations department and ask them about the availability of seats.  If they say there aren’t any seats left ask if the flight is oversold, and if it is ask by how many.

Calling ahead is important because you can ensure you show up to the airport early. Upon arrival, walk up to the gate agent and volunteer before they even asking for any.  Though I have not purposely booked a busy flight, this practice has helped me score some free airline travel vouchers over my “traveling career”.

Holidays are a “gimme” – holiday time is when travel is at its busiest. Think Thanksgiving holiday, labor day weekend, etc. Airports turn into zoos and there is much chaos surrounding airline staff.  Further, airlines know this is a time they bank the dough and therefore usually tend to oversell up the wall.

Think about it, if a passenger bought a ticket for $300 8 weeks in advance, but another passenger is willing to pay $800 by booking just a week ahead of travel, the airline might sell the $800 ticket despite the sale putting it in oversold status.

Why? Because it can hope that a volunteer will accept a $300 voucher and be willing to take another flight, netting the airline more net revenue from the arbitrage.  Because flights tend to be packed during holiday season, this is a good time for someone wanting to score free airline travel vouchers by volunteering to give up their seat.

Credit card points – this is not a no brainer by any means.  If you are interested in traveling for free, look into lucrative credit card offers that award thousands of miles in exchange for meeting a certain minimum spend within X months.  I’ve written about how you can maximize credit card perks in the past, and this is one sure way of scoring free travel.

If you want a more detailed case study, read my article on how I was able to make $4,220 for free in just 2 hours from credit card points.

Some of the best promotions I can remember are British Airway’s 100,000 mile promotion and American Airline’s 75,000 mile promotion, both of which I capitalized on.  These offers are just too good to pass up at times.

Complaining – I am not suggesting you become a full time downer for airlines each time you fly, but don’t be afraid to express your concerns when faced with difficulties while traveling. Baggage issues, travel delays, cancelations, poor customer service are all just a few examples of things you can file an airline complaint about.

I write in an email complaint each time I feel the services rendered by the airline was not satisfactory as per my expectations.  Most of the time, a representative from customer service writes back with a small compensation in the form of airline miles or cash vouchers.

I am not talking about hundreds of dollars, though those have come by too, rather I am talking about 5,000 miles here, 10,000 there, or $25 here, $50 there.  These amounts add up over time. For example, Frank often searches for flights that have poor on-time departures (airlines are now required to show this when you are booking online, or you can ask on the phone if you are booking with a live agent). He then complaints about the half hour delay and usually receives some points in his frequent flier account.

In some severe cases such as baggage damage or lost luggage, you are entitled to bigger compensation amounts. But because airlines are notorious for their poor customer service or no service, you may have to take matters a step further by filing an airline complaint in small claims court.

For the amount of travel I have done over the years, I have had to take a few airlines to court on multiple occasions, each resulting in a favorable outcome for me.  Most disgruntled airline passengers don’t do this because they don’t know how the process works. Many are frustrated but also intimidated or overwhelmed and therefore often give up.

The process is actually quite easy if you have the right guidance.  Realizing this need, I packaged my knowledge of how the system works, coupled with countless personal experiences, into an eBook which I sell on my Sue the Airlines website.

Side Note for Internet Entrepreneurs: This is an example of how you can monetize your personal experiences.  The book sells on my website, ClickBank, Amazon, Barnes and Google Books.

So while I can’t say I plan out my travels specifically around the opportunity to get bumped in exchange for compensation, I have traveled thousands of miles on the airline’s dime.  Frank however has deliberately worked the system and I remember him telling me that he hadn’t paid out of pocket for travel in over two years at one point.  Isn’t that something?

Now that I think of it, neither have I – and I travel a lot, for personal and for business. Just in the last 18 months, I’ve made 3 international trips and about 30 domestic trips to visit friends, family, attend internet marketing conferences, etc.

Concluding Thoughts

We just returned back from a 6 day trip to San Francisco and the flight part of our trip was fully funded by free airline vouchers. Traveling is fun as it is for us, and travelling for free is just out of the world.

Getting free tickets is not difficult for a frequent traveler. That said, most day to day travelers travel for work and do not have the flexibility we do and therefore cannot take advantage of such offers.   Those who travel for leisure have limited vacation time and often want to maximize their holidays.

If you travel for work and were presented the opportunity to travel for free using free airline vouchers, would you do it?  CAN you do it is the more appropriate question?  Can you tell your boss the truth and get away with it if it means a free personal trip for you in the future? Many corporate policies are against such behavior.

What if you were traveling on your own time for leisure, would you do it? Have you done it? I’d love to hear your stories and tips you can share to help our readers maximize free travel opportunities.

Sunil
Traveling Free

How to Use LinkedIn to Get in Touch with a Hiring Manager & Land the Job You Want

Learning how to use LinkedIn strategically to get in touch with the hiring manager of the job you want is an extremely valuable skill that can separate you from the average job applicant when applying for that next ideal job.

I will go over a strategy that I personally utilized successfully to land a relatively (based on my age and experience level) high profile position in the early 2000s at a company that I was particularly targeting.  I am positive that this strategy will work equally as well today if not more effectively from how I have seen LinkedIn evolve and used.

Though LinkedIn was founded in 2002, and though many professionals capitalized on its features and capabilities early, most I would say did not get on the bandwagon until the recent few years or so.  With the increasing number of professionals getting on the platform, learning how to use LinkedIn effectively is a key “skill” that can benefit anyone’s job search endeavors.  (I know I have used it heavily for several big business wins).

Most job descriptions (at least the ones I have seen) do not disclose the name of the hiring manager. Rather, the position description reads something like this:  “this position reports to the VP of Marketing” or something similar.  So what does learning how to use LinkedIn have to do with that?

Professionals on LinkedIn typically list all the “specs” tied to their jobs/positions including their position at the company they work for. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can use the Advanced search function and search for the hiring manager, in this case the “VP of Marketing” at the relevant company.

If you are able to find the person in that position, see whether you are LinkedIn to them and how.  If you are already LinkedIn (many don’t have a recollection of how many and who they are Linked to), you can send them a direct mail message for free.

If you are not LinkedIn directly but through colleagues in your network, attempting to request an introduction may take some time and is usually not the best recommended route in my opinion.  Go ahead and try this anyway. In addition, browse to see what groups the hiring manager is part of.  Apply to join the same groups. Once part of the group, you can send the hiring manager a friend request because of the common group affiliation.  This process can also take some time.

If all else fails, scroll through the individual’s profile and see whether their corporate email ID is displayed.  Many have this visible. If their email ID is not visible, research the company’s email nomenclature / structure online and email the individual directly.  Trust me, they will be IMPRESSED.  If you can’t find the company’s email format online, go to the company’s corporate website and navigate to their “Contact” or “About” page.  These pages typically display generic email IDs one can use to get in touch with the company.

Take the email extension (the @company.com part) and send a message to the hiring manager using the following twelve formats:

FirstName.LastName@company.com

FirstName_LastName@company.com

FirstNameLastName@company.com

FirstName-LastName@company.com

FirstInitial.LastName@ company.com

FirstInitial_LastName@ company.com

FirstInitialLastName@ company.com

FirstInitial-LastName@ company.com

LastNameFirstInitial@ company.com

LastName-FirstInitial@ company.com

LastName.FirstInitial@ company.com

LastName_FirstInitial@ company.com

You should have the hiring manager’s full name by scouring LinkedIn.  Send the same email message to each format individually. In other words, do not send only one email with four email addresses displaying in the “to” “cc” or “bcc” fields.  Make the email look professional and well intended. Use your copy / paste skills.

I am not promising this strategy will work 100%, but there is a very high likelihood that you will hit Bulls Eye utilizing this approach. Learning how to use LinkedIn effectively can pay off huge, and is a must in my opinion for individuals motivated by professional growth.

Readers: What do you think? Have you tried this strategy to get in touch with a hiring Manager on a job you were targeting?

What Can We Learn from Farmers about Financial Success and Discipline

We engage in countless activities in our day to day lives.  Of those activities, some require special focus and particular attention from us, such as getting a good job, investing for the future, starting a business to make more money or have more balance in life.

These are important activities that impact our lives, and ones that we put our all into.  Similarly, farmers sow seeds and harvest crop for a living.  These activities hold just as much importance to them, if not more.  There is no doubt they put their all into activities that impact their lives as well.

And although the lifestyles may be different, as well as the types of activities we engage in, there is an important overarching parallel between the farming lifestyle and one far from the farms.

A Farmer’s Life

A farmer relies on a good harvesting season to make a decent living. But long before harvesting season, a farmer first has to carefully source seeds and plantation. Poor decisions at the onset can affect the crops come harvesting season.

This is merely the beginning to a long road of irrigating, planting, watering or feeding, controlling pests, enduring weather, good or bad, and standing the ultimate test of time.  But it is only when all the work is put in that a farmer reaps the benefits from the seeds sown what seems like a long time ago.

What Do You and I Do?

Unless you are a farmer, you have likely been involved in at least one of the following: job searching, working, investing for retirement and starting a business.  This is not to say that farmers don’t invest. Many do.  I am simply highlighting some of the activities that tend to be on our high priority list.

When we search for jobs, we spend time preparing our resumes, taking job search classes, spending countless hours on the internet searching and applying, getting out there to meet people, networking, spending money preparing and sending letters, making phone calls and all kinds of other jazz.

When we finally get an employer’s interest, we drive miles way for interviews, spend money to ensure we look presentable, and spend more time following up on the interview.  Many times, we are rejected and we move on to the next until we find the right one.

When we invest, we spend time learning about our options, carefully investing in selected securities, and then follow up from time to time to ensure we are investing more over time, and that our investments are performing according to our expectations.

When they are not, it causes us unrest, and we start to think of ways to do better.  Decades down the road when we retire, we finally get to tap into our investments and the profits they’ve generated for us (if we live that long).

When starting a business, we spend countless hours researching, meeting people, talking to them, doing our home work and diligence just to make an offer on an existing one or start a new one.

Once we get started, we realize that there is a ton more work involved than what we had anticipated, and there goes more countless hours, dollars and frustration.  We put up with it because we know that at some point down the road our efforts and investment will start to pay-off dividends.

Time is Constant

Time is the constant in a farmer’s life, as well as in ours.  The underlying common theme in all of the scenarios above is starting early and longevity.

For any endeavor to be successful, it must be given ample time and attention.  I have seen several bad investments turned good over time.  I made one myself. I had purchased a property thinking it was a good deal, only to see the market tank and rents drop like flies.

As a result, I was forking out more money than bringing in.  My mortgage was more than rent I was collecting from my tenant.  But it’s ok. The pendulum started to swing the other way over time and the property was generating positive cash flow.

It sure took time, and a lot of attention.  I engaged in aggressive cost cutting measures such as securing my own private mortgage insurance (PMI) at a discount, challenging the appraisal value to lower my taxes, as well as refinance the property at a more favorable interest rate.

It’s amazing how the fundamental laws of the universe work universally across many disciplines in life.  The farming lesson definitely applies to our finances and our lives as well. Perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from those who have been doing it for centuries before us.

Sunil
Sowing Seeds

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