Overbooked plane, denied boarding or bumping are common occurrences when using airlines. Know what your rights are when it comes to these issues.
An overbooked plane is not illegal, and most airlines overbook their scheduled flights to a certain extent in order to compensate for “no-shows.” Passengers are sometimes left behind or “bumped” as a result. When an overbooked plane occurs, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires airlines to ask people who aren’t in a hurry to give up their seats voluntarily, in exchange for compensation. Those passengers bumped against their will, with a few exceptions, are entitled to compensation. But many people don’t understand their DOT rights and what airlines owe them. As a result leave behind extra compensation (or an important flight).
Almost any planeload of airline passengers includes some people with urgent travel needs and others who may be more concerned about the cost of their tickets than about getting to their destination on time. DOT rules require airlines to seek out passengers who are willing to give up their seats for compensation before bumping anyone involuntarily when there is an overbooked plane.
In this chapter, we’ll take a deep dive into DOT requirements for involuntary bumping, as well as your options for voluntary bumping. When it comes to DOT requirements, knowledge is power. Airlines frequently violate procedures for bumping passengers from oversold flights, and they take advantage of those unprepared. A friend who really wanted to get on a flight, and who knew the rules and regulations, was told by the airline that he would be denied boarding or “bumped.” They said he would get a $500 coupon and have to fly the next day. He told the gate agent that the airline needed to give him $1,350 in cash and showed the agent the regulation he had pulled up in his cell phone. The gate agent went aboard the flight and found another volunteer (ostensibly who accepted far less than $1,350 in cash). My friend boarded the flight and got to his destination on time.