Passenger Rights for Overbooking
Overbooking is a common practice in the airline industry today. Airlines will commonly oversell a flight (by selling more seats than available) to compensate for passengers who do not show up on the day of the flight. This practice, however, creates a problem for passengers on flights where there are not enough no-shows and, therefore, not enough seats even though the booking was reserved and confirmed correctly.
In these cases, airlines will generally offer compensation in the form of vouchers, upgrades, points or cash to passengers willing to voluntarily give up their seat and fly at a later time. Such a case is considered “voluntary denied boarding”. Therefore a passenger who volunteers to be bumped from his or her flight would not be eligible for airline compensation.
If no passengers willingly give up their seat on the overbooked flight, the airline will be forced to bump some passengers to a later flight. These cases of overbooking are referred to as “involuntary denied boarding”, which would entitle the passengers to denied boarding compensation if the flight is within EU jurisdiction.
Specifically, under EU Regulation 261/2004 regarding passenger rights, any passenger involuntarily denied boarding on an overbooked flight departing from an EU airport, regardless of airline or destination, is eligible for airline compensation. Additionally, passengers overbooked on flights inbound to the EU operated by an EU carrier are also eligible.
This regulation also establishes guidelines for flight delay compensation, flight cancellation compensation, and compensation for denied boarding and missed connections. In these cases, there is a minimum delay of 3 hours to trigger refund payments. However, in the case of involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking, the passenger is automatically eligible for airline compensation and the airline is still obliged to provide an alternative mode of transport or a refund of the ticket.
Being bumped from your flight is unplanned and unpleasant, at best.
If you are denied boarding, you should react as follows:
- Go to the ticket counter of the airline in question. Here you will usually be notified of alternative flights. The airlines are obligated to find a satisfactory solution.
- In order to file a valid airline compensation claim, you should ensure you have written evidence of your denied boarding. This can be in the form of your new boarding cards if such were printed, or your luggage receipts. In addition, you can have airline personnel put your circumstances in writing.
- If you required food, accommodation or transport, such as taxi, it is of utmost importance to keep all receipts to ensure you receive compensation from the airline.
- Then consider whether you are in a position to enforce your passenger rights against the airline or tour operator. Keep in mind that the three year claim period only applies to airlines – a tour operator will need to be contacted within one month.
You have a right to airline compensation in the event of involuntarily denied boarding
EU Regulation 261/2004 stipulates that compensation of up to 600 Euros is due to passengers who were involuntarily denied boarding at an airport within the EU – regardless of airline or destination. Compensation for involuntarily denied boarding is also due to passengers on flights leaving a destination outside the EU for a destination within the EU, as long as such flights are operated by an EU carrier.
In addition to overbookings, the regulation also covers flight delay compensation, flight cancellation compensation, and compensation for missed connecting flights. Flight delay compensation is due if your flight arrives at its destination with a delay of three or more hours.
In the case of involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking, passengers are automatically eligible for airline compensation. In addition, the airline must provide an alternative transport option or reimburse the airline ticket price.
Passengers denied boarding as a result of travelling with invalid travel documents (or without a valid visa) will not be eligible for a refund for overbooking.
What to do if my flight has been overbooked?
Airlines will commonly oversell a flight (by selling more seats than available) to compensate for passengers who do not show up on the day of the flight. This practice, however, creates a problem for passengers on flights where there are not enough no-shows and, therefore, not enough seats even though the booking was reserved and confirmed correctly.
Do not volunteer to give up your seat in exchange for vouchers or perks.
If you do, you could be giving up your right to any additional compensation. Of course, if the airline makes a compelling enough offer, you may prefer to take it. The final decision is up to you.
Hold onto your boarding pass and any other travel documents.
If you don’t have your boarding pass, you can use any flight document with a booking reference number. This number is assigned to your flight reservation by the airline and is a six-digit code, which may include both letters and numbers.
Ask why you’re being denied boarding.
The most common reason is being “bumped” due to an overbooked flight, but there are other reasons you may be denied boarding, as well. This information is important down the line if you decide to file a claim and be entitled to overbooked flight compensation.
Request an alternate flight to your destination.
Or, if you prefer, you can request a refund of your fare and a return flight to your original point of departure, if necessary.
Request compensation for your boarding denial.
Provided you’re eligible, the airline should pay you immediately once you’ve been denied boarding for your flight. That’s in addition to offering you the re-routing or refund mentioned above.
Ask the airline to cover your meals and refreshments.
If you are forced to wait at the airport longer than planned, the airline is supposed to provide food and drinks to keep you comfortable. It’s not just good hospitality, in some cases, it’s a requirement.
Get the airline to provide you with a hotel room.
If you’re being grounded overnight while waiting for an alternate flight to your destination, the airline should cover any reasonable costs for accommodations as well as transportation to and from the airport, if necessary.
Keep your receipts if your boarding denial ends up costing you extra money.
Whether it’s missing out on a pre-paid reservation, hotel, rental car, or other unexpected costs, passengers on international flights — even within the EU — may be able to recover expenses caused by travel disruptions.
What are my options in the event of an overbooked flight?
Being denied boarding and bumped from an overbooked flight is of course not something you have to take in stride. The airline must compensate you. Firstly, the airline must reimburse your unused ticket, including all taxes and fees. Also, the airline needs to provide you with a re-routing (another flight) as soon as possible or at a time convenient to you. However, your airline has a right to wait until it finds a flight with available seats. Whilst you are waiting on your substitute flight the airline must provide you with meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation (if an overnight stay is necessary), transport between the hotel and airport, and two phone calls (or emails or faxes).
Will someone look after me in the event of an overbooked flight?
Yes. Every passenger affected by an overbooked flight has the right to adequate assistance. As mentioned above these include free meals and refreshments as well as two phone calls, emails or faxes, lodging and transport between the airport and your hotel. If you have to wait several days on your substitute flight, the airline has to pay for your accommodation on those nights.
Get professional help immediately
If you were affected by denied boarding because of overbooking and would like flight delay claimers to file a claim for airline compensation on your behalf, you should follow these steps:
- To claim your right to compensation for overbooking with flight delay claimers, simply input your flight data on our website.
- We’ll tell you straight away if you’re entitled to a refund, and to what amount exactly.
- If the airline refuses to pay, we’ll take your case to court at no extra fee. Our Europe-wide network of passenger rights lawyers has a proven track record in obtaining airline compensation on behalf of our clients.
Once the airline has paid out your airline compensation, we will keep our fee of 24% incl. VAT and transfer the rest of your money directly to your bank account!