Overbooked Flights: What Should You Do?


Overbooked flights and the mistreatment of passengers removed from those flights has been a hot topic in the news lately. If you have had the good fortune to never be aboard a flight that has been overbooked, count yourself lucky. Overbooked flights can and do happen.

In fact, according to 2016 data collected from the 12 largest airlines, at least 434,425 passengers voluntarily gave up seats on overbooked flights. However, a whopping 40,629 people were involuntarily bumped from their flights. Those are pretty concerning numbers. Why do airlines overbook and what should you do if it happens to you? Read on to find out.

Why Do Airlines Overbook?

Airlines overbook for one very simple reason. Empty seats do not make the airlines any money. Unfortunately, there are people who do not show up for their flight on almost every airline, every day. The reasons for missed flights vary, but include oversleeping, arriving too late to clear security in time, and illness.

To avoid losing money (the people who miss their flights are often refunded or placed on another flight), airlines overbook the flights. Most of the time, this does not result in having too many passengers, sometimes it does.

What Happens If a Flight is Overbooked?

Every airline has its own policy for handling overbooked flights. It is important that you research this policy thoroughly, so you know what to expect. Generally speaking however, if a flight is over booked, the airline will first ask for volunteers to give up their seats.

These volunteers are often compensated by the airline in the form of cash or gift cards, and offered a seat on a different flight. If not enough people volunteer, the airline, using its established criteria, will begin involuntarily bumping passengers from the flight.

What to Do If You Are Bumped

If you are bumped from your flight, it is understandable to be upset. However, you should comply with the airline’s request, as you do not want to be forcibly removed from the aircraft. The situation is not ideal, and will only lead to trouble. Accept the compensation offered by the airline and wait for your next flight.