How To Benefit From Overbooked Flights

  • Overall, there are two situations in which airlines will offer compensation to passengers
  • Bumping is when they force people off an overbooked flight, and airlines must compensate you in cash for that
  • Airlines can also ask for volunteers, and in this case they usually offer vouchers, and try to low ball their offers

Now that we’re in the summer travel season, airplanes are bound to be packed, and there’s a good chance you may encounter an instance of an airline overbooking a flight. If this happens on your flight, you may be able to benefit from it, but it’s important to be prepared to make sure it’s worth your while.

Overall, there are two situations in which airlines will offer compensation to passengers. They include: 

  • Bumping – This is when an airline forces you off a flight because it’s oversold, and in this case they must compensate you. According to federal rules, if you get bumped you are entitled to cash compensation, plus a seat on a later flight. No vouchers here. If you’re travel is delayed for at least an hour, you can get up to $1,350, with the actual compensation taking into account the length of the delay and the price of a one-way ticket. 
  • Airlines ask for volunteers – This is when a flight is overbooked but the airline has yet to force anyone off the plane. In this case they often ask for volunteers in exchange for a voucher, since legally airlines aren’t required to pay cash in this instance. Airlines will usually start low with their voucher offer, and experts say you shouldn’t jump at the first bite. Brian Kelly, CEO of travel website The Points Guy, suggests a “solid starting point” would be $400 for a domestic flight and $800 for an international.

But experts note, if you are thinking about taking that voucher, you should ask for the following before accepting:

  • Demand a confirmed seat, not standby, on the next available flight in addition to the voucher.
  • If your delay will be long, ask for meal or hotel vouchers too.
  • Inquire about when the travel voucher expires  and whether it can be combined with other discounts.
  • Find out if the voucher can be used on other airlines.
  • Source: ABC News
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