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One year, our flight to Lisbon on TWA was severly overbooked. So was just about every other flight to Europe. Everybody had spring fever & wanted to get the heck out of the snow belt. It was a bad winter that year. None of the airlines got their usual no-show factor.

As we usually do when traveling for vacation, we'd ask to have put ourselves put on the potential "bump" list as soon as we'd arrived at the gate. They took us up on it & we were given a free flight voucher, good anywhere TWA flew in the world, free hotel room, vouchers for dinner, breakfast & lunch, transportation to the hotel, free phone call home & booked on the flight for the next day.

While waiting for the staff to process all this, we watched as passengers screamed violently at the poor staff, jabbing their fingers just inches from in their faces & insisting they be put on the plane NOW!!! Worried, other staff called for security. Meanwhile, the harried attendant was trying to maintain some semblance of polite customer service while being harranged. She couldn't exactly tell the customer to take a flying leap, so to speak.

Well, we didn't have any inhibitions stopping us. We weren't airline employees, after all. So DH & I had a loud conversation about how RUDE some people are..the poor's not their fault the plane's overbooked...they're just doing their best to handle it... some people have no class...etc.

Well, Mr. Loudmouth shut up pretty fast. Security showed up a few minutes later & things remained at a contained simmer. The attendant came over, put her arm around us & said, "Follow me. I'm going to make sure you guys get well-taken care of tommorrow". She then proceded to upgrade us to first class tickets for the next day. :)

Back to the airport the next day - we now had first class tickets, so we headed over to enjoy the first class lounge. A blond-haired gentleman who was also waiting started to chit-chat with us. We had a very nice conversation. Looking around at the others that were travelling with him, we got the impression he was "someone" but didn't know exactly who.

When he was called away to the phone, DH wandered over to the staff & asked if they could possibly let him know with whom he was talking. Turned out to be . . . Bon Jovi! The band was waiting for a plane change so they could have enough first-class seats on their way to Spain. I had a chance to chat with his mom a bit while she changed the baby's diaper in the bathroom. The whole family & group were really down to earth.

When we got to the gate later, we decided to volunteer again to be bumped, just in case. We didn't think there was much hope, but what the heck. Well, they were so badly overbooked from the previous day they still didn't have it straightend out. So yep, we each got another free flight voucher & all the trimmings.

Back to first class lounge on the third day. This time there weren't any rock bands waiting for us, just the top-class buffet & open bar. At the gate, I had to twist DH's arm a bit to convince him we should volunteer to be bumped again. He thought it would be silly. This time we were loaded onto the plane. While eating our shrimp & sipping champagne, the attendant came over to ask if we were still interested in volunteering. We looked at each other, laughed, and say yes!

We gathered up our stuff & left the plane. As the staff was preparing our third free voucher, I made sure I had my passport. Uh oh - no passport. I'd left it in the seat pocket on the plane. Oops! Fortunately, the same plane was coming back for the next day's flight & they were able to make arrangements for my passport to be brought back. So I can say my passport's been to Lisbon more times than I have :)

We finally got out on the 4th day. We didn't mind a 3-day vacation at the airport hotel as our summer vacation was several weeks & we had days to spare. If we were only going for a week, we would have never volunteered THAT many times. But I think this overbooking was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The airlines seem to have gotten a bit tighter with the bookings. Who knows how much poor inventory control contributed to TWA going belly-up.

With our free tickets, we took a 10-day trip to Hawaii & a 10-day trip to Italy. We ALMOST got a free ticket on our way back from Hawaii. That flight was overbooked too. They needed 4 people. We were #5 & #6 on the list. I REALLY regretted the extra time we spent on the beach that morning before the flight. If we'd gotten to the gate a few minutes earlier, we would have beat out the 2nd couple that signed up. Ah well, live & learn. The 3rd set of tickets we used for our Portugal vacation the next year.

So yes - volunteer to be bumped if you have the time. You too may get to meet Bon Jovi.


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