If you're on a Galaxy Fold, consider unfolding your phone or viewing it in full screen to best optimize your experience.
by Lyle Daly | Updated Nov. 9, 2021 - First published on Aug. 17, 2019
Many or all of the products here are from our partners that pay us a commission. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.
What can you do to ensure you’re not forced off a flight?
It’s the travel situation everyone wants to avoid. The day has finally arrived for your long-awaited trip. You go through all the fun of passing through airport security and waiting at your gate, only to end up bumped from your flight and unable to board.
Airlines need to do this when they have more passengers than they have available seats, with one common cause being that they’ve overbooked the flight.
It’s incredibly frustrating, as you’re being denied a seat that you paid for, and it can also throw a monkey wrench into your travel plans. If you have a connection to make, the delay of being bumped can cause you to miss it. You may need to make new transportation arrangements, or lose out on a day of your vacation.
The good news is that there are a few ways you can reduce your chances of ever getting bumped from a flight.
Tips and tricks from the experts delivered straight to your inbox that could help you save thousands of dollars. Sign up now for free access to our Personal Finance Boot Camp.
By submitting your email address, you consent to us sending you money tips along with products and services that we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe at any time. Please read our Privacy Statement and Terms & Conditions.
One rule you can expect with just about every airline is that if they need to choose passengers to bump, they’ll start with those in the lowest fare class. Those in business class, first class, and even premium economy are usually safe (although they can be bumped down to a lower fare class if necessary).
First on the chopping block will be those in the airline’s basic economy seats. Although these can be a good deal if you’re looking for a cheap, no-frills ticket, they do put you at higher risk of being bumped. Even spending some extra money (or credit card points) for a standard economy ticket will give you a much better chance of staying on your flight.
Another factor that airlines consider when deciding who to bump is check-in times. Passengers who check in earlier will receive priority over passengers who check in later.
This is something you have full control over. You’re typically able to check in up to 24 hours in advance, so make sure you do that, especially if you have an economy or basic economy ticket.
Flights tend to get more crowded as the day goes on. When there’s a flight cancellation, passengers miss their flights, or passengers get bumped, airlines will first try to find them another flight they can take that same day.
That means flights that depart later in the day are more likely to be overbooked, because they end up accommodating all of the passengers who had issues earlier.
If an early flight works for you, you’re less likely to run into a situation where your flight is overbooked.
When airlines need to bump passengers, they start with voluntary bumping. This means they announce that they need volunteers who are willing to take a later flight and offer compensation to those who accept. Compensation is usually a voucher for a certain amount with the airline, but could also include a hotel stay and meal vouchers if you’ll need to take a flight the next day instead.
Some passengers like having the opportunity to get a voucher in exchange for being bumped. Here’s what you (and anyone you’re traveling with) should discuss ahead of time to be prepared for this situation:
By figuring this out before you go to the airport, you won’t miss out on compensation because the airline successfully recruited enough volunteers while you were busy thinking it over.
Let’s say you’re one of the unlucky few to be bumped from a flight involuntarily. Here are a few tips to help you get through this:
Look into how much compensation you’re entitled to. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has rules for denied boarding regarding how much compensation passengers are entitled to. These are the guidelines for passengers who are denied booking due to overbookings on domestic flights:
Get cash instead of a voucher. Airlines may initially offer you a voucher as compensation, but if they owe you compensation under the DOT regulations, then you can ask them for cash instead.
Don’t be afraid to ask for extras. The airline may be able to give you additional compensation, such as a free night at a nearby hotel, or vouchers for free meals.
See what protections your credit card offers. Travel problems like this one are one reason that you should always book airfare with your credit card. Assuming you did, look into any coverages your card has that can help you here. Some travel rewards cards have trip-delay reimbursement, which could cover any extra costs you incur that go uncompensated by the airline.
The odds of getting involuntarily bumped are low, especially if you follow the advice above. If anything, you may have the opportunity to get a flight voucher by volunteering to give up your seat.
In the unlikely scenario that you are involuntarily bumped, try to stay calm, make sure you get the compensation that you’re entitled to, and work with the airline representatives as they find you another flight.
If you have credit card debt, transferring it to this top balance transfer card secures you a 0% intro APR into 2023! Plus, you’ll pay no annual fee. Those are just a few reasons why our experts rate this card as a top pick to help get control of your debt. Read The Ascent's full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.
We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.
The Ascent is a Motley Fool service that rates and reviews essential products for your everyday money matters.
Copyright © 2018 - 2022 The Ascent. All rights reserved.