Would You Turn Down a Free Flight?

by TTMK on September 16, 2013 · 7 comments

I was thinking about situations where spouses have had disagreements on interesting things, and remembered a situation from over 10 years ago involving a coworker and his nightmarish travel experiences.  This trip actually involved a friendly argument that was money-related, which he relayed to me in a subsequent conversation asking me what I thought about it.

Basically, the way he described it, he and his wife had taken a trip to Europe during that summer.  I don’t recall where exactly, but I’m pretty sure his last stop was London.  Anyway, the flight was overbooked, which must have been an issue for the airline at the time.  This was also an issue for this coworker and his wife, because they were flying just two days before having to go back to work.  If I recall, their flight was supposed to be on a Saturday, and they were to go back to work on the following Monday.

He had shared with me that they had the opportunity to be bumped from that flight to another flight the next day.  In exchange, they would each get a free one way ticket from London to the U.S.  Not for this trip which was already paid for, but for a future trip.

To him, this was a no-brainer.  They would simply fly on Sunday instead of Saturday, and would get a free flight in exchange.  Considering how expensive cr0ss-Atlantic flights can be, this seemed like a great opportunity for very little cost. That cost would simply be moving the flight by one day, and not having a day off before going back to work on Monday.

To his wife, it was not so appealing.  She didn’t like the idea of having to go in to work tired, and really felt stressed about not having that one day buffer.  One might suspect that the fear of not performing well at work would be the motivator here.

What do you think happened?  You guessed it, they didn’t take the free ticket.  They actually bypassed it, and came back home on that Saturday.

At the time, I thought it seemed like such a crazy story that maybe he had some facts wrong or perhaps he didn’t communicate it well.  I mean, why would someone just give up a free ticket?  But, that’s exactly what happened.

Clearly, at the time, I agreed with him.  Of course one should be careful in telling someone who you agree that his wife was out of her mind.  Even though he could say it, that doesn’t give others free license to pile on.  So, diplomatically I let him know that I would feel the same way and would have taken the ticket at the expense of being tired for work.  What’s one tough day at the office, right?

Fast-forward to now.  As I think about it, if this situation came up today for me, I would want to turn it down.  Sure, I still enjoy the idea of free – especially free airfare!  However, I wouldn’t want to exhaust myself for the work week.  After all, a free ticket is great but at what expense?

It’s almost penny-wise and dollar-foolish (or pound-foolish?), I think, to choose short-term gain for risking things at work.  It might depend on the type of job one has, the pressures there, job market in your field or location, or some other factor.  But I think that now, years later, I agree with the guy’s wife .  She wasn’t crazy after all 🙂

My Questions for You

What would you do in this case?

In terms of the best course of action, do you agree with the guy, or do you agree with his wife?

Can you see how one would change views on this over time, based on age or life experience?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Edward Antrobus September 16, 2013 at 6:32 am

A free ONE WAY ticket? That’s genius on the part of the airline. Because if your coworker had taken it, he would have had to buy a return ticket. Who is to say that he ever intended on going back to London again? Take that comp, and it’s garunteed. And garunteed that he is going to be spending money to do so.

But this also reminded me of a commercial I once saw where they were giving a free flight to anyone who was willing to leave right then. If that happened to me, I would have turned it down. Giving your boss no notice that you are taking off for a vacation seems like a good way of getting fired to me. I know I’m supposed to give two business days.


TTMK September 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Edward – yep, it sure seems like a clever business move! This is essentially a half-price (at best) trip, as of course people do need to return and it’s not like a person can catch a cab back. That being said, half off a trip isn’t such a bad thing! I agree with you on how giving no notice isn’t a good career move, even if it’s for an extra day off due to a later flight.


Emily @ evolvingPF September 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm

We’ve passed on vouchers for free flights or money off the next flight or whatever – not as restrictive as what your friend was offered. So far we’ve never had a schedule that allowed for that kind of flexibility. I actually would have taken his because he had that one flex day, whereas we are usually flying hours or 1 night before the event we’re traveling for. I would definitely consider it if we were on a more flexible trip.


TTMK September 17, 2013 at 12:06 am

Emily – I can get where you’re going with this. It’s often hard to have such flexibility in one’s schedule to accommodate changing flight dates. Just they way many people’s lives and careers are set up these days, which makes a free ticket something other than an obvious slam dunk offer.


eemusings September 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Ditto, for the reasons Emily laid out. Even without the one day buffer I would opt to take it, most likely! I completely understand and aynpathise with the wife’s reasoning though.


Joe Saul-Sehy September 16, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Cheryl and i have actually talked about this before! She would go home and I would stay. That way, although we wouldn’t score the full discount, she could be rested for work Monday and we’d still get half the deal.


TTMK September 17, 2013 at 12:07 am

So, one person goes round trip via two one-way flights? If that could work out, it sounds pretty good!


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