Flight Overbooked? Here’s What To Do Next

Man at airport looking at planes

With an overbooked flight, the sense of injustice is clear – you book your flight correctly, turn up promptly, hand over your documents courteously only to then find when it comes to boarding that there’s a problem.

The flight is overbooked. There are more passengers than there are seats and, as this isn’t the Number 12 bus into town, standing up for a few minutes isn’t an option.

A few passengers, all of whom have perfectly valid bookings, are going to be denied boarding. How can you minimise the chances of this being you and, if you are denied boarding, what are you entitled to by way of denied boarding compensation?

Why do overbooked flights happen?

Airlines work to a basic and usually reliable assumption – a percentage of people who have booked tickets won’t turn up.

If they sell 100% of the seats on the plane and 10% of the passengers don’t turn up they have wasted capacity, they could have sold more tickets. By selling beyond 100% of the available seats they hope to get the best of both worlds, extra sales but no disgruntled passengers. They sell tickets that are never used, their plane leaves with full capacity.

As with all algorithms based on assumptions, sometimes things go a little wrong and the expected level of no shows actually have the audacity to turn up for the flight they booked.

When this happens, problems arise.

It could be you

Sadly, it is impossible to guarantee that you won’t be the person, group or family denied boarding on an overbooked flight. Ultimately, all passengers are in the same position. They all have bookings, they all turned up fully expecting to board the flight. 

Being the most argumentative or forthright customer won’t help either.  Neither will having what you see as the best reason for making the trip. The airline need to remove people from the flight, they are likely to be fairly neutral as to who these people are.

Remain calm

On learning that your flight is overbooked you need to be able to make clear and calm decisions. Fortunately that is a lot easier when you know what the options are and what you are entitled to – points we will run through fully below.

The airline will look for volunteers willing to give up their seat and fly at a later time, usually in return for perks in the form of vouchers, upgrades, points or even money. 

Taking the airline up on this offer can be worthwhile if switching to a later flight is of no consequence to you. It might make no difference to your plans, killing a couple of hours in the airport might be a price worth paying for a nice upgrade or a couple of hundred pounds in return.

Of course, as with all bartering, the first offer is unlikely to be the last. If the flight remains overbooked, the airline is likely to improve the deal in the hope that enough passengers are persuaded. 

For the passengers desperate to take their place on the flight, these offers are of great benefit as they appeal to many fellow would-be fliers. In many cases, enough people will be tempted by the offers and so the overbooking problem goes away.

Sadly, that isn’t always the case. What happens when the airline has made their final offer yet the flight remains overbooked?

Know your rights for overbooked flights 

If you are bumped from the flight you are entitled to compensation and the level of compensation is likely to be well in excess of those paltry offers the airline was making to try to persuade people to take a later flight.

Having people agreeing to voluntarily forego their place on the plane might avoid arguments and ill-feeling but from a business perspective it also helps the airline save money.

Under EU regulations, any passenger involuntarily denied boarding on an overbooked flight is eligible to compensation of up to €600. 

That is not all though. 

Depending on the length of the delay, you might be entitled to free hotel accommodation, food and drink, any travel to and from accommodation while you wait for your new flight and also recompense for other expenses such as missing out on pre-paid reservations, rental cars and other bookings.

You are, of course, also entitled to an alternate flight to your destination, or you could request a refund of your airfare and, if necessary, return flight to original point of departure.

Anyone accepting the airline’s offer of vouchers, upgrade or other in return for taking a later flight foregoes other claims such as requesting accommodation.

How to act

When you are bumped from a flight it can be hugely stressful and distressing, potentially disrupting plans that have been months in the making.

Act calmly and firmly.

  • Request an alternate flight, or, if more suitable, a refund.
  • Ask why you were bumped, the reason will usually be because of overcrowding, however the information is useful when coming to make a claim.
  • If the wait for the next flight is significant ask what provision there is for complimentary food and drink and, if relevant, accommodation.

The next step will be to claim denied boarding compensation and, unlike with cancelled flight compensation and missed connections where a three-hour delay is necessary to trigger payments, there is no minimum time qualifying element. 

To put it another way, if you are bumped due to overcrowding you are entitled to compensation.  

Flight compensation experts with a 98% success rate

At Flight Reclaim, we have a 98% success rate when it comes to reclaiming what clients are entitled to and we also operate on a no-win, no-fee basis.

In most cases it is a simple process, you give us the details, we chase up and the compensation comes your way. If the airline refuses to pay, we’ll take your case to court at no extra cost to you.

Hopefully, you haven’t suffered being bumped from an overbooked flight.

However, if you have suffered this inconvenience, please get in touch with us at Flight Reclaim – call us on 0161 883 2662 or fill in a few simple details to start the process online.

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