What is an overbooked flight?
On most domestic and international flights there will be seats that are not taken due to missed connections or passengers that don't show up. Airlines will sometimes sell more tickets on the plane than the available seats. This is an overbooked flight and its main aim is to avoid flights departing with empty seats. Airlines use algorithms to determine how many extra bookings can be taken for each flight.
Why does it happen? How do you know if a flight is overbooked?
Airlines overbook seats to avoid losing money when passengers don't show or miss connections. Overbooking means they can still earn income for those seats, even when people don't show up. If all the passengers do show up, you will be informed that the flight is overbooked and a request will be made for volunteers who may be willing to forgo the flight for a later one. The volunteer is usually given vouchers or cash in exchange. If no passengers are willing to give up their flight there will be an involuntary selection of passengers and one or more will be "bumped" from the flight.
Who gets bumped from an overbooked flight?
Passengers who are not in a hurry are asked to voluntarily opt for a later flight in exchange for compensation. If nobody volunteers, passengers will be involuntarily bumped onto a later flight in exchange for compensation. Each carrier determines their own bumping criteria, but airline staff may choose to bump passengers who were last-minute check-ins, those who didn't make a seat selection when booking, those not at the gate 30 minutes before check-in, or passengers with low-priced seats.
What does it mean to get "bumped"?
You will be offered an alternative flight of your choice or the next available flight that suits your needs. Before you do this, make sure you know when the next confirmed seat will be available. Standby flights can leave you stranded. Find out whether the airline provides meals and a hotel room if you will have to wait or you will most likely spend your compensation on a meal and a bed for the night. Vouchers for future flights are only useful if they suit your needs so find out about restrictions on the ticket.
How do I avoid getting bumped from a flight?
Your best chance to avoid being bumped is to avoid late check-ins, make sure to select a seat when booking, and arrive on time. Airline agents may still ask you the question whether you can opt taking the scheduled flight, so make sure you mention your reasons if any at that time. People with disabilities, minor children who are unaccompanied, and members of the military are exempt from being bumped.
Does the airline provide any compensation if you get bumped from an overbooked flight?
Whether you get bumped involuntarily or choose to reschedule, you are entitled to compensation. If you are provided with an option that gets you to your destination within an hour of your original arrival time, you won't be compensated. Once again, each airline varies in regards to how they may compensate the passenger so if you have a reservation and the flight happens to be overbooked, please hear the options available to you if asked.
What other options are there if I get bumped from the flight?
If you used frequent flyer miles, your compensation will be based on the lowest ticket price in the same class. You will keep your original ticket and use it on the alternative flight. If you choose to make your own substitute travel arrangements, you can ask for a refund. If you paid for special services on the flight and don't get them on your alternative flight, you can ask for a refund.
Why are airlines able to sell overbooked flights? Are overbooked flights legal?
It is legal to overbook seats for a flight on the provision that passengers who don't get a seat due to overbooking must be compensated with an alternative flight, cash, or travel vouchers.
Depending on when you decide to travel, you may encounter being asked to opt taking your scheduled flight. This may be true especially during the normal high peak travel seasons when overbooked flights are more common. When the time is right and decide to take some time off for a vacation, visit BudgetAir Australia to check for our best airline deals and compare prices.
Go back to top
Want to read more?