Many Flights Are Oversold This Summer. How Much Money Can You Expect When You're Bumped to a Later Flight?

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  • If a flight is oversold, the airline may offer compensation to passengers willing to give up their seats and take a later flight. 
  • Find out how much money you can expect when bumped to a later flight. 

Passengers bumped to a later flight may be entitled to compensation. 

If you've been watching the news, you're probably aware of the chaos many travelers are experiencing this summer. Domestic and international flights have been canceled and delayed, impacting travel plans for many. Since some flights are oversold, airlines may ask passengers to volunteer to take a later flight. Find out how much compensation you can expect. 

Now that it's been over two years since the pandemic started, everyone is eager to travel again. Airports are packed with travelers, and many flights are oversold. When this happens, some passengers won't be able to fly as planned. 

An airline will begin by asking if any passengers are willing to volunteer to be bumped in exchange for compensation. Here's what you need to know: 

When are you eligible for compensation?

We've outlined the situations where you're eligible for compensation and how much compensation you can expect. 

Different rules are outlined depending on whether you've volunteered to be bumped or the airline involuntarily bumped you to a later flight. 

These rules only apply to flights departing the United States. 

What to expect when you volunteer to be bumped 

Airlines must ask passengers to voluntarily be bumped in exchange for compensation before involuntarily bumping travelers. 

Airlines can choose to offer incentives like vouchers or money. There is no limit to the amount of money or vouchers the airline may offer, so you can negotiate with the airline if the compensation offered is insufficient for you to want to give up your seat. 

How can you get the most out of the situation? 

Experts suggest asking for cash instead of vouchers. A cash payment gives you more flexibility since you won't be required to use the money to fly with a specific airline. 

You can ask for more compensation if what's being offered isn't attractive. This is a good strategy if there are no other volunteers. Keep in mind the airline may continue to increase the incentives being offered, and other travelers may start to volunteer to give up their seats. 

Should you volunteer to give up your seat? 

You may not want to volunteer if you have a strict schedule and need to get on your flight. However, for travelers with a flexible schedule, volunteering to take a later flight can be advantageous and could put more money in their bank accounts

If you volunteer to give up your seat, be sure to ask essential questions. 

Here are some examples: 

  • Can the airline confirm that you have a seat on an upcoming flight?
  • Will they cover the cost of a hotel if you can't fly out on the same day?
  • How long will the airline voucher be valid for?

What you need to know if you're involuntarily bumped

If you've been involuntarily bumped, you're eligible for compensation if:

  • You have a confirmed reservation
  • You checked-in to your flight on time
  • You arrived at the departure gate on time
  • The airline can't get you to your destination within one hour of your flight's original arrival time 

The cost of your ticket, how long your arrival will be delayed, and whether you're flying to a domestic or international destination determine how much compensation you'll receive.  

The limits below are the max amounts airlines are required to provide, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Domestic flights

  • 0 to 1 hour arrival delay: No compensation
  • 1 hour to 2 hour arrival delay: 200% of one-way fare (up to $775)
  • Over 2 hour arrival delay: 400% of one-way fare (up to $1,550) 

International flights 

  • 0 to 1 hour arrival delay: No compensation
  • 1 hour to 4 hour arrival delay: 200% of one-way fare (up to $775)
  • Over 4 hour arrival delay: 400% of one-way fare (up to $1,550) 

Before heading to the airport for your summer travel plans, ensure you know the rules and rights. You may be able to put some extra money in your pocket and turn a stressful situation into one that is financially beneficial. 

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