Flying is exciting. There’s the rush of takeoff and the bird’s-eye view of the landscape, not to mention the excitement of visiting a new place, seeing friends and family, and more. But flying can be stressful—and the fact that airlines use overbooked flights to help their bottom line doesn’t make it any easier.
The good news is that the EU Flight Compensation Regulation, also called EU 261, provides passengers with compensation in the event they’re bumped from an overbooked flight. It’s important that all travellers know their rights when it comes to claiming overbooked flight compensation—and know how to avoid this situation whenever possible.
Overbooked flights are actually quite common: Airlines often assume that not all passengers will show up for a flight. They sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane, which makes the flight more profitable as it helps them cover for cancellations and no-shows. In short, they want to make sure every flight is as full as possible to maximize their profits.
Airlines determine each flight’s “no-show rate” based on past data from the same route. If their data shows that there are typically four no-shows for a given route, they’ll sell four more tickets than there are seats on the plane.
The trouble starts if all the passengers do show up. The result is an oversold flight—and an opportunity for travellers to claim overbooked flight compensation from the airline.
Of course, the best-case scenario is not to get bumped from an overbooked flight in the first place. And if you must, make sure you get an incentive that’s at least as much as you would get from overbooked flight compensation.
In modern air travel, checking in online has become common. Most major airlines allow you to check-in online or through mobile phones 24 hours before the flight time. The benefits of checking in as early as possible include:
Flying on a less-popular route or at a less-popular time of day can help you avoid having to deal with an oversold flight. All passengers are more likely to show up at popular times of day, and more popular routes are more likely to be overbooked. Try these options when you fly:
First-class and business-class travellers often get special treatment—it’s a fact of airline travel. The airline has higher profit margins on those seats, so if you can afford them, it’s a great way to ensure you don’t get bumped from an overbooked flight. In addition, frequent flyers and rewards club members will also have clout. The airlines want to keep these passengers satisfied so they’ll keep returning. Finally, those whose travel plans would be very disrupted may be able to convince the airline not to bump them. If you have a connecting flight or an important event, like bereavement, let the airline know.
You can also go the opposite route, and volunteer to be bumped. Airlines will almost always seek out volunteers before they start making cuts from the passenger list on their own. They’ll often offer rewards, anything from flight vouchers to cash. Keep in mind that you may be able to get more from overbooking compensation than what the airline is offering, so it’s important to know your rights.
Sometimes overbooked flights are unavoidable—and if you’re not able to follow the tips above, you just might be the one getting bumped. EU 261 provides several types of overbooked flight compensation you should know about.
If you’re bumped from an oversold flight, it’s important to know your rights. You’ll have the choice of receiving a reimbursement from the airline or a replacement seat on the next available flight to your destination. You can also choose to fly to a nearby destination instead if there is a flight available sooner. Any overbooked flight compensation you are eligible for after your ordeal is over does not affect your ticket refund or rebooking—it’s a separate claim.
In addition to a ticket refund and overbooking compensation, the airline is required to accommodate you during any time you must wait in the airport. This means they must provide meals and refreshments, two telephone calls or emails, and also lodging and transportation to and from the airport, if you’re required to wait overnight. If the airline doesn’t provide you with vouchers, be sure you keep your receipts. You can ask them to reimburse you later.
Once you make it to your final destination, or return home if you choose to accept a refund for your ticket, it’s time to think about making a claim for overbooked flight compensation. Because of EU 261, it’s easy to file a claim online, and when you go through a reputable company like TravelRefund, you don’t pay unless you win.
Most claims under EU 261 are subject to something called “extraordinary circumstances.” This means that if the reason for the cancellation or delay was not within the airline’s control, for example the weather, they do not owe compensation. Airlines only pay compensation for issues that are within their control. Fortunately for travellers who have been bumped from overbooked flights, this issue is almost always the airline’s fault.
However, don’t confuse being denied boarding due to overbooking—which is the airline’s fault —with other reasons you may be denied boarding. If you don’t have the right documents, like a valid passport or visa, if you are inebriated, or if the crew thinks you are too ill to travel, you could be denied boarding and you would not be able to claim overbooked flight compensation.
Have you been bumped from an overbooked flight, but you’re not sure if you’re eligible for compensation? Do you have questions about the amount you can claim or need information on how to file? Contact us today. We’re always here to answer your questions about overbooked flight compensation.