It is my husband’s habit to inquire, whenever we are waiting at the gate to board a flight that’s looking full, to ask the gate agents if they’re looking for volunteers to take a bump.
He did that for a recent connection from JFK to Los Angeles, where the flight was so full that we hadn’t even been able to reserve seats next to each other. And it paid off, though not exactly as we’d expected.
In this case, a gate agent told us that they might indeed need to bump people. She took our names and blocked out space for us on the next flight to LA, just in case.
She agreed that if we got the bump, we’d get two $400 flight vouchers and two seats in business class on that next flight. We’d also be protected on that flight from an involuntary bump if it filled up.
A great deal, but it didn’t happen. The original flight didn’t quite fill up, so there was room for us and for a few stand-by passengers.
What did happen was that the agent got us into two adjacent seats on the bulkhead, so we got to sit together and got extra leg room, too.
Morals of the story: 1) it never hurts to ask and 2) gate agents are often friendly and flexible with friendly, flexible passengers.