The first thing that’s likely to happen with an overbooked flight is the gate attendant will ask people to volunteer to take another flight.
They’ll sweeten the deal by offering a travel voucher, often beginning at $200 and then continually increasing if people don’t volunteer.
Anyone who isn’t in a huge hurry to get on the flight might take the voucher, thinking they’re getting a really good deal. Why not take a later flight and get paid a couple hundred dollars to do so?
Because the airline may actually owe you more than that.
Do not volunteer to give up your seat in exchange for vouchers or perks.
If you do, you could be giving up your right to any additional compensation. Of course, if the airline makes a compelling enough offer, you may prefer to take it. The final decision is up to you.
Hold onto your boarding pass and any other travel documents.
If you don’t have your boarding pass, you can use any flight document with a booking reference number. This number is assigned to your flight reservation by the airline and is a six-digit code, which may include both letters and numbers.
Ask why you’re being denied boarding.
The most common reason is being “bumped” due to an overbooked flight, but there are other reasons you may be denied boarding, as well. This information is important down the line if you decide to file a claim.
Request an alternate flight to your destination.
Or, if you prefer, you can request a refund of your fare and a return flight to your original point of departure, if necessary.
Request compensation for your boarding denial.
Provided you’re eligible, the airline should pay you immediately once you’ve been denied boarding for your flight. That’s in addition to offering you the re-routing or refund mentioned above.
Ask the airline to cover your meals and refreshments.
If you are forced to wait at the airport longer than planned, the airline is supposed to provide food and drinks to keep you comfortable. It’s not just good hospitality, in some cases it’s a requirement.
Get the airline to provide you with a hotel room.
If you’re being grounded overnight while waiting for an alternate flight to your destination, the airline should cover any reasonable costs for accommodations as well as transportation to and from the airport, if necessary.
Keep your receipts if your boarding denial ends up costing you extra money.
Whether it’s missing out on a pre-paid reservation, hotel, rental car, or other unexpected costs, passengers on international flights — even within the EU — may be able to recover expenses caused by travel disruptions.
See if your boarding denial is eligible for compensation.
Provided your flight is eligible, the compensation amount is dependent on two factors:
– Travel distance
– Whether your flight is within the EU or not
We love charts, so here’s one that explains how much you’re eligible for based on your flight details:
|Length of delay|
|Less than 3 hours||3 – 4 hours||More than 4 hours||Never arrived||Distance|
|€ –||€250||€250||€250||All flights 1,500 km or less|
|€ –||€400||€400||€400||Internal EU flights over 1,500 km|
|€ –||€400||€400||€400||Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km|
|€ –||€300||€600||€600||Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km|
Fun fact! Your compensation is due immediately once you are denied boarding. And we mean right there, at the airport. That is in addition to being entitled to re-routing on an alternate flight to your destination.
Your compensation for being denied boarding is due immediately, so you ideally wouldn’t have to go through the claim process. However, if you didn’t get paid at the airport, not to worry ⎯ you can still file an EC 261 claim after the fact. You can expect some pushback from the airline however. Even when the law is on your side, they might not be enthusiastic – or particularly quick – about paying you. To give your claim the best chance of succeeding, here are a few tips to follow:
– Hold onto any documents related to the disrupted flight and any alternative flights offered, such as e-tickets and boarding passes.
– Ask the ground crew for information about what is causing the issue.
– Keep a few notes about the disruption, including the actual arrival time at your final destination. Any information you can collect – like photos of the departures board at the airport or any communications from the airline confirming the disruption⎯will be useful for your claim.
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