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What You Need To Know About Your Federal Rights If Your Flight Is Overbooked

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There are tons of things that can go wrong at the airport. Your suitcase can’t be over the weight limit, you’ve got to make it through security smoothly, you have to leave yourself enough time to get to your gate and you’re probably praying that there won’t be any delays. With the recent incident on a disastrous United Airlines flight, in which a passenger was forcibly removed from his seat, now you have to add hoping your flight won’t be overbooked and that you won’t be aggressively manhandled to the list.

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So, what exactly is overbooking and how does it occur? With flight data, airlines know that not everyone will show up and are essentially preparing for this situation. Scenarios could be that one overslept, forgot, or just didn’t make it on time. Thus, airlines sell more seats than there are available. This results in creating an algorithm in which they try to guess how many passengers likely won’t arrive while trying to fill the plane as close as possible to full capacity. Overbooking, unfortunately, happens pretty often and results in more than 40,000 passengers being removed annually from seats they paid for.

With summer coming up, a season in which airports will be swarming with crowds of passengers, overbooked flights are all the more possible. According to a study, Delta and United are the likeliest for overbooking. As a flier and passenger, it’s all the more pertinent to know your rights in case you end up in this situation.


1. Know that you will get compensation.

There’s no limit on how much compensation an airline can offer passengers to give up a seat. But, according to federal law, if you’re forced to take a different flight, you won’t be compensated if you make it to your final destination within an hour of the time of your original flight. If you’re booted and your flight arrives between one and four hours later, you could earn up to a maximum of $675. If you arrive more than four hours later, you could earn up to a maximum of $1,350. Compensation could either be cash, travel vouchers, or a combination.


2. Be as cooperative as you can.

The captain is in charge of the aircraft and if you’re chosen to leave, accept the situation. If not, police enforcement could be involved. If you really want to avoid the situation, be strategic about booking your flight. Choose the undesirable times and know that evening flights are the most likely to fill.


3. There’s still prioritization.

Explain to the airplane’s staff if you have to be somewhere. The nicer you are, the more understanding they’ll probably be. If you’re on the way to your best friend’s wedding or have a job interview you have to be on time for, you’ll be prioritized. And please, don’t make up a dramatic story if you can help it.


4. Several factors are considered in choosing who to boot.

If you checked in last, aren’t in the airplane’s loyalty program, or didn’t pay that much for your seat, you could be at a disadvantage. So, arrive ahead of time, check in online, and be strategic about when to use your points.


5. Practice your haggling skills.

Airlines and staff know you’re being inconvenienced. If you’re chosen, try asking for larger fare credits or food vouchers.

There’s a lot of gray area that exists when it comes to airline situations, concerning authority and regulations. There’s always room for improvement when it comes to overbooking, like resolving issues before passengers board the plane or being more clear about their policies. Should it happen to you, know your rights so you won’t end up as next week’s viral meme.

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  • COLLEGECANDY Writer
    Wanderess. Stamp collector. Writer. Has most likely already stalked you on Instagram and will show up if there’s cheese.
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