What to Do if Your Flight Is Overbooked

It’s a nightmare scenario that you hope never to encounter when booking air travel. You plan an expensive vacation, use your well-deserved vacation at work, prepare your family, go to the airport and find that your flight is overbooked and your seat is no longer available.

If your flight is overbooked, you may find your trip delayed as you wait hours or even days for another flight. However, if you know your rights and how to negotiate, you could get paid a lot for the inconvenience.

In fact, getting bumped by a flight is the number one way to get a free plane ticket when you travel. Follow these steps to get paid what you deserve if you can’t take the flight you wanted.

What to do if your flight is overbooked

Overbooking an air flight is not illegal. In fact, it is common practice in the US airline industry, with airlines selling more seats than are available on a plane to allow for no-shows.

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However, if everyone shows up, there isn’t enough room on the plane to get around. This could lead airlines to ask volunteers to give up their seats or forcibly knock people off the flight. How you get compensated depends on how you end up losing your seat on a flight.

1. Know your rights

The most important thing you can do to ensure that you are properly rewarded for losing your seat is to know your rights as an air passenger. Your rights vary depending on whether you have volunteered to give up your seat or if the airline has denied boarding without your permission.

Before airlines can begin denying boarding, they are legally required to ask if passengers are willing to voluntarily give up their seats. Usually, they offer some kind of compensation to the volunteers. If part of the volunteer fee includes a voucher of some kind, the airline must define all applicable restrictions before accepting.

If not enough people volunteer, the airline may choose to deny passengers boarding without their permission. In this case, those passengers must receive compensation, known as denied boarding compensation or DBC. The airline determines who is affected based on factors such as check-in time or frequent flyer status.

For domestic flights within the United States, those denied boarding will receive the following compensation:

Duration of the delay based on the time of arrival Compensation
Less than 1 hour Nobody
1 to 2 hours Twice the one-way fare ($ 775 maximum)
More than four hours Four times the one-way fare ($ 1,550 maximum)

International flights allow slightly longer flight delays before maximizing compensation due.

Duration of the delay based on the time of arrival Compensation
Less than 1 hour Nobody
1 to 4 hours Twice the one-way fare ($ 775 maximum)
More than 4 hours Four times the one-way fare ($ 1,550 maximum)

The airline must provide affected passengers with a written document explaining what is happening and your rights. You are also entitled to compensation at the airport on the same day or within 24 hours if you leave the airport that day.

Furthermore, to be entitled to compensation, you must:

  • Have a confirmed booking
  • Check-in on time
  • Arrive at the gate on time
  • Depart from the United States

If you get stuck overnight, you are not entitled to a hotel room or transportation, although some airlines will offer these accommodations in addition to the DBC.

2. Evaluate the offer

When airlines start asking volunteers to give up their seats on an overbooked flight, they won’t immediately start offering large amounts of money. They usually start with small offers and build from there until they hit the maximum. They only hit people if they don’t get enough volunteers.

In a way, you can end up in a chicken game with other passengers who don’t mind taking a different flight while you wait for a better offer to volunteer to relinquish your seat.

You should listen to the airline’s offer and consider its value when trying to decide whether to give up your seat. Remember that if enough passengers accept lower offers, the airline will never hit the maximum and you won’t get paid at all. You will simply board the flight as usual.

Everyone knows cash is king, but airlines could also offer coupons, gift certificates, or even miles to help people volunteer their seats on an oversold flight. Think about how much those miles or vouchers are really worth to you.

Depending on how long it will take to get on the next scheduled flight, the airline may also offer:

  • Vouchers for hotels and transport
  • A food voucher redeemable at airport restaurants
  • An upgrade to first class on the alternative flight
  • Access to an airport lounge

While giving up your seat so you can sit first class on a new flight may seem appealing, think about whether that upgrade and the other perks it offers are really worth the inconvenience. Accepting such an offer could mean giving up your rights to other compensation.

3. Negotiate

There’s nothing that says you can’t try to negotiate with the airline to get the kind of compensation you want, especially if you’re already willing to wait for the next flight to your final destination.

If the airline starts asking for volunteers, you can speak to the employees who work at the ticket office and offer to give up your seat on your terms. For example, if the airline offers a $ 100 off coupon on the next flight, you could ask for $ 100 in cash and a coupon for food.

If the airline is having trouble finding enough passengers to volunteer, you may be lucky and get a better deal than other volunteers. What to trade for and how you do it is up to you. Keep in mind that not all airlines will be willing to negotiate and there is no guarantee that you will get the deal you want.

4. Keep your receipts

If you get stuck from your original flight, you may find yourself waiting for hours or even overnight before you can leave on a later flight.

While you wait for your next flight, be sure to keep receipts for things like hotel stays, food, transportation costs, and the like. Your airline may compensate you for some of these costs or you may need to make a travel insurance claim.

5. File a travel delay compensation claim

If you have travel delay insurance, a common part of travel insurance coverage, you can get reimbursed for any prepaid costs you lose, such as your first hotel night at your destination.

Travel Delay Insurance can also help you pay for meals, transportation, and even hotel accommodation while you wait to arrive at your destination.

If you get hit by a flight, you can file a travel delay insurance claim to get compensation for these costs. You can purchase this coverage independently, but some premium travel credit cards also offer it as a benefit.

Most travel delay policies do not cover more than a certain amount of expenses. The typical maximum ranges from $ 250 to $ 1,000, depending on the policy. Read your policy carefully so that you are not surprised by partially denied claims later on.

Final word

Getting hit due to flight overbooking can be a big hassle, especially if you end up waiting a long time for your next flight or need to be at your destination within a certain time. However, if you know your rights, you can make sure that you are adequately compensated for the delay.

These kinds of situations are just one of the reasons why travel insurance can be a good idea. If you are losing a lot of money on a trip, consider buying a policy, just to be safe.

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