You’ve probably heard stories of passengers who have been denied boarding because their flight is overbooked. If you travel often enough, chances are you’ll eventually be asked to give up your seat or forced to take another flight. Undoubtedly, you’ll be wondering, why is my flight overbooked? How can airlines do that? Overbooking is actually very common in the industry; airlines can legally sell more seats based on the assumption that not all passengers will show up. So, who gets bumped on an overbooked flight, and why?
Knowing why airlines overbook and your EU 261 passenger rights when you get bumped from a flight is your best line of defense when this happens to you. If you are denied boarding, here’s what you can expect, ways to claim your flight compensation, and how to avoid getting bumped from your next flight.
What Is an Overbooked Flight?
An overbooked flight, or oversold flight, is when an airline sells more tickets than available seats. Overbooking ensures seats are filled so they can maintain profitability. Airlines use algorithms to figure out how many passengers may miss flights based on several factors, such as bad weather and mechanical breakdowns that can cause flight delays and cancellations.
What Happens When A Flight Is Overbooked?
Two scenarios can happen to passengers when your flight is overbooked:
1) You may be asked to give up your seat voluntarily; or
2) You may get bumped involuntarily from your seat.
Before you graciously give up your seat, it’s important to understand the difference between voluntary denied boarding and involuntarily denied boarding.
What Is Voluntary Denied Boarding?
Voluntary denied boarding occurs when the airline asks passengers to give up their seats. The airline generally offers compensation or benefits based on their policies and EU flight regulations, including upgrades, points, cash, or travel vouchers. Passengers who volunteer to get off the plane cannot later claim cash compensation for denied boarding, so make sure that the benefits outweigh the costs before you give up your seat.
What Is Involuntary Denied Boarding?
Involuntary denied boarding occurs when an airline cannot get enough passengers to give up their seats. The airline can then refuse boarding to a set number of people. In these cases, passengers who are involuntarily denied seating are entitled to boarding compensation under EU 261 passenger rights and should pursue legal options when this happens.
What Are Your Options When Your Flight Is Overbooked?
Airlines have many ways to incentivize passengers to give up their seats. If you’re trying to get to your destination, what’s the best way to proceed? Whether you offer up your seat or get forced off the plane, keep these options in mind when you are the one who gets bumped from an overbooked flight:
1. Stay near the gate.
Don’t leave the gate when you have been denied boarding, especially if your seat is not confirmed. There’s always a chance that someone else will be a no-show (or reluctantly give up their spot), and the seat will be yours.
2. Wait for the next available flight.
When you’re denied boarding, you’re entitled to rerouting to your final destination at the earliest opportunity, according to EU 261 passenger rights. If you choose this option, you’ll no longer have the right to get reimbursed for your ticket; however, you may still be entitled to some compensation depending on the distance and how long your delay exceeds the originally scheduled arrival time. The airline should cover expenses like meals and accommodations during this time.
3. Get a travel voucher.
There are various ways to receive flight overbooked compensation when you’re denied boarding. If you decide to take a travel voucher and wait for the next flight, insist on a confirmed seat in addition to your voucher for future flights. Make sure to ask for meal or hotel vouchers as well. Keep in mind that many airlines won’t replace lost vouchers. Ask when the travel voucher expires, and if you can combine your voucher with other discounts.
Claim compensation with EU 261.
If you are denied boarding because your flight is overbooked, the airline is required by law to compensate you for the flight. Under EU 261 passenger rights, you may be entitled to up to €600 in compensation if you were involuntarily denied boarding.
At TravelRefund, we can go through what happens when a flight is overbooked and help you determine if you are entitled to compensation. If you were involuntarily denied boarding, we can assist you in filing a claim so you don’t miss out on compensation.
How to Avoid an Overbooked Flight
Although you may receive compensation and other perks, giving up a seat or missing a flight may just not be worth it. While it may be unavoidable in many cases, you can minimize your chances and better predict who get bumps on an overbooked flight by following these tips:
1. Check-in as early as possible.
Airlines often deny boarding to passengers based on the check-in time. The later you arrive at the airport, the more likely you’ll get bumped. You can minimize the chances of this happening by getting to the airport a little earlier.
2. Reserve your seat ahead of time.
Although you may spend a little extra, try to preselect your seats when making a reservation. Passengers without assigned seats are more likely to get bumped; however, there are no guarantees. If the airline is unable to assign you a seat, you should take this as a sign that the flight might be overbooked.
3. Don’t fly on airlines that routinely overbook.
Some airlines are notorious for overbooking. Try to book flights with airlines that do not routinely overbook. If you have to book with a certain airline, make a conscious effort to fly during off-peak travel times.
4. Don’t fly on peak travel days.
The best days to travel to avoid overbooked flights are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. The chances are greater that your flight will be oversold on the busiest days, which are Friday, Saturday, and Monday (morning).
5. Fly during the off-season.
The busier the season, the more likely you’ll be that passenger who gets bumped on an overbooked flight. Try to avoid traveling on school holidays and book your next getaway during non-touristy months.
6. Try to avoid connecting flights.
Book a nonstop flight. Although you can often save more when you book an indirect flight, you’ll have more layovers and connections that will increase the likelihood that you’ll be denied boarding at some point.
7. Join the airline’s frequent flyer program.
Joining an airline’s frequent flyer program can help secure your seat. Airlines are less inclined to deny boarding to loyal passengers. Even with lower elite status, you’ll still have a better chance of getting onboard than other passengers who have not signed up for rewards.
8. Fly business or first class.
First and business class passengers rarely get denied boarding. If you purchase elite status or priority seating, you’ll have a better chance of getting on that flight than people who have purchased cheaper seats.
My Flight Was Overbooked. What Are My Rights?
Europe has established strong passenger rights based on EU flight regulations. By understanding your EU 261 passenger rights and why your flight is overbooked, you’ll know how to react when you are denied boarding and be able to seek out better compensation when it happens to you.
Many passengers think they don’t have the time or expertise to file a claim; TravelRefund can help you every step of the way. If you have been denied boarding, let us guide you through the process and help you file your flight compensation claim today.