Do you know of anyone who got “bumped” due to overbooking? Overbooking lights is not illegal, and many airlines overbook their scheduled flights to a certain extent in order to compensate for no-shows. When that happens, you can be “bumped off” the flight.
When an oversale occurs, the required to ask people to give up their seats voluntarily in exchange for compensation, and also compensated if bumped bumped against their will.
Voluntary bumping – Almost any group of airline passengers includes some people with urgent travel needs and others who may be more concerned about the cost of their tickets than about getting to their destination on time. The rules require airlines to seek out people who are willing to give up their seats for compensation before bumping anyone involuntarily. If you’re not in a rush to arrive at your next destination, you can give your reservation back to the airline in exchange for compensation and a later flight. But, you really need to get some answers before deciding.
When is the next flight on which the airline can confirm your seat? The alternate may be acceptable but, if the airline offers to put you on standby on a flight that’s full, you could be stranded. Will the airline provide other amenities such as free meals, a hotel room, transfers between the hotel and the airport, and a phone card? If not, you will be out of pocket while you wait for the next flight.
The rules generally require airlines to advise anyone the amount of compensation that would be due. Carriers can negotiate with their passengers for mutually acceptable compensation and may at times, offer a free trip or other transportation. If the airline offers you a free ticket or a transportation voucher in a certain dollar amount, ask about restrictions. How long is the ticket or voucher good for. Is it restricted from holiday periods or can it be used for international flights?
Involuntary Bumping – Those passengers who are bumped involuntarily and who don’t get to fly are frequently entitled to “denied boarding compensation” in the form of a check or cash. The amount depends on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay. These rule may well differ between the USA and Europe, so if you are caught abe bumped, make sure you ask clearly what are your rights. The European Commission has a rule on bumpings that occur in an EC country; ask the airline for details, or go to http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passengers/air/air_en.htm.
Air carriers give priority to persons with reduced mobility and any persons accompanying them. In the event of a denied boarding, the passengers concerned have the right to reimbursement of the cost of the ticket or a return flight to the first point of departure or re-routing to their final destination; care (such as refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation, transport and telephone calls, along with cash compensation.
Airlines may set their own “boarding priorities” that affect the order in which they will bump different categories of passengers in an oversale situation. Some airlines bump passengers with the lowest fares first. For passengers in the same fare class the last passengers to check in are usually the first to be bumped, even if they have met the check-in deadline.