What Happens If a Flight is Overbooked?

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By Sophia Anthony

If a flight is overbooked, it means that there are more passengers with tickets to board than the plane can accommodate. Airlines typically try to avoid this situation by using sophisticated forecasting and booking systems. If an airline does find itself in this situation, they will first offer incentives for customers to voluntarily give up their seats such as travel vouchers and credit towards future flights.

If there are still not enough volunteers, then the airline will start involuntarily bumping passengers off of the flight. Passengers who have been bumped may be eligible for compensation but those removed against their wishes will usually receive priority when rebooked on alternate flights to their destination.

When a flight is overbooked, it means that there are more passengers with tickets than available seats on the plane. Airlines typically offer incentives such as travel vouchers or discounts to encourage people to take a later flight. If no one volunteers, then they may be forced to deny boarding involuntarily and bump passengers off of the flight.

In this case, airlines must provide compensation according to their own policies and regulations set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Depending on how long you were delayed getting re-accommodated, you may also be entitled to additional benefits under DOT rules.

What are your rights on an overbooked flight?

What are My Rights If My Flight is Overbooked?

If your flight is overbooked, you have rights under the US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. According to the DOT’s Fly-Rights brochure, airlines must first ask for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for compensation before involuntarily bumping passengers from an overbooked flight. If you are bumped involuntarily and arrive at least one hour later than originally scheduled, depending on the length of delay and ticket price, you may be entitled to denied boarding compensation of 200% of your one-way fare (up to a maximum of $675).

In addition, if you’re bumped involuntarily or delayed overnight due to an airline’s oversale situation, they must provide meals and lodging as well as transportation between the airport and hotel until a new flight can be booked.

What Happens If No One Gives Up Their Seat on an Overbooked Flight?

If a flight is overbooked, airlines will first attempt to incentivize passengers to voluntarily give up their seat in exchange for compensation such as vouchers or future travel credit. If no one volunteers to give up their seat, the airline will involuntarily deny boarding to certain passengers based on specific criteria like fare class and check-in time. Involuntary denied boardings can be disruptive and unpleasant experiences for travelers who may have already checked in luggage or made plans for arrival at their destination.

Depending on the circumstances of the denied boarding, an airline may also be required by law to provide additional compensation beyond what was offered as an incentive for voluntary denial of boarding.

Who Gets Bumped on Oversold Flights?

When a flight is oversold, it means that there are more passengers with tickets than available seats on the plane. Airlines will typically offer compensation (such as free tickets or vouchers) to those willing to voluntarily give up their seat in order for another passenger to board. If not enough volunteers come forward, then airlines may involuntarily bump certain passengers from the flight.

Generally speaking, bumped passengers tend to be those who purchased their ticket at the lowest fare and/or checked in last for the particular flight. Passengers who have status with an airline’s loyalty program or booked a higher-priced ticket usually receive priority when it comes time for involuntary bumps.

Can They Kick You off an Overbooked Flight?

Yes, airlines can legally remove passengers from overbooked flights. Airlines are allowed to sell more tickets than available seats in a flight because they take into account that some passengers may not show up for the flight. When this happens and all the seats on board are taken, airlines will then select certain individuals who need to be removed from the plane in order to make room for other passengers with confirmed reservations.

Generally, these selections are based on factors such as fare class and check-in time; however, federal regulations require airlines to offer compensation or other incentives before involuntarily bumping passengers off of an overbooked flight.

What Happens If a Flight is Overbooked

Credit: www.findlaw.com

Who Gets Bumped on Overbooked Flight?

When airlines overbook flights, passengers are sometimes bumped from their seats due to a lack of available space. Airlines typically re-accommodate bumped passengers by offering them compensation in the form of vouchers for future travel or cash refunds, and they also offer to book them on another flight that will get them to their destination sooner than the original ticket would have allowed. Passengers who do not accept these offers may be denied boarding with no compensation.

What Happens If a Flight is Overbooked And No One Volunteers?

If a flight is overbooked and no one volunteers, the airline will typically begin by asking for travel vouchers in exchange for giving up their seat. If people still don’t volunteer, the airline may then start removing passengers involuntarily, usually starting with those who paid the lowest fares or who booked later than others. In most cases, involuntarily denied boarding passengers are entitled to compensation from the airline according to guidelines set by national and international regulations.

How to Tell If a Flight is Overbooked?

When booking a flight, it is important to know whether or not the flight is overbooked. Overbooking can cause delays and other inconveniences for passengers. To tell if a flight is overbooked, travelers should check the airline’s website for any notes about seat availability or ask an airline representative when checking in at the airport.

If there are no updates on the website or from an agent, then there’s a chance that your flight could be oversold.


In conclusion, overbooking is a common practice of airlines to maximize their profits. However, it can also lead to frustrating situations for passengers who must unexpectedly find alternative travel plans. Airlines are required to take certain steps when a flight is overbooked, such as offering compensation and seeking volunteers before denying passengers boarding.

Knowing your rights in the event that your flight is overbooked can help you prepare for any issues that may arise due to this issue.

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