I wrote not too long ago about my slate of flights to and from Ireland to visit my partner. Today, I took the third of these trips, which was the “perfect” FlexPerks redemption, coming in at $398 for a mere 20,000 points.

The itinerary was SFO-JFK-DUB in both directions on Delta, with the domestic segments being served by Deltas premium service, complete with white tablecloth meal service and lie flat seats for those fortunate enough to afford it.

Given that I was paying “cash,” I was not one of those people…

Until about three minutes before my flight.

My JFK-SFO return segment had been oversold for a few days, and I had even been asked at the check-in kiosk in Dublin whether I’d be willing to volunteer to be bumped in exchange for compensation. Of course I said yes, since I was on my way home and there are plenty of routes home from New York so I didn’t expect too much of a net delay.

When I got to JFK, my heart was pumping, and I hung out at the gate so I could make sure to be the first to talk to the gate agent and reconfirm my spot on the volunteer list.

At about t-45 my name was called. $800 to get on a flight getting in four hours later. $OLD!!!

Or at least, so I thought. They needed two volunteers, and I was the first of them. As they made their final boarding calls I counted down the number of names they had called and thought I had done the tracking correctly within one person (which, by virtue of the fact that I was volunteer number one, would have been sufficient).

At five minutes to departure, they asked me, and the standby who would be taking my seat, to come to the gate. Naturally, I went without my things, mentally basking in the moment.

But that never came. “We broke even!” I was told triumphantly by the gate agent. “You can get on the plane.”

The other volunteer and I looked at each other with disappointed eyes. But then, as we walked the jetbridge, the gate agent asked our seat numbers. What?

As the two standbys boarded, they were told to take our seats. The gate agent stops us. Double what?!

“Your seats are 7a and 7b,” he said.

Some quick mental math told me I had just been given a complimentary upgrade into Delta One! I have no status with Delta, and it’s normally a route that requires an upgrade certificate or co pay to get an upgrade on. 

I won the travel hackers’ lottery.