You have been counting the days until your much needed vacation. You arrive at the airport 2 hours early to make sure you have plenty of time to check in and get through security. When you get to the ticket counter to check in the agent says your flight is oversold and you have been booked on a flight 2 hours later. What??? How can that happen?
As the airlines are flying fewer planes and booking them to capacity this is happening more and more. In 2012, nearly 59,000 people were bumped from their flights. So what do you need to know about your rights as a passenger or even better how to make sure this does not happen to you.
1. Know your rights – If you are bumped from your flight through no fault of your own. The airlines must get you to your destination, as well as give you compensation for the delay. You can check the official Department of Transportation rules on voluntary and involuntary bumping. It is even a good idea to have a copy of the rules with you when you travel.
2. Show Me The Money – If you are bumped how much compensation are you due?
- If you are bumped from a domestic flight and will arrive at your destination more than 2 hours past your original scheduled arrival time, you can collect 4x the cost of a one-way ticket or up to $1,300 cash.
- If you are bumped and arrive within 1 to 2 hours of your original scheduled arrival time you are due 2x the cost of a one-way ticket or up to $650
- International flights have different rules, you are due up to the $650 for delays from 1-4 hours and up to $1,300 for delays over 4 hours.
- If you are owed money it is best to get a check instead of a travel voucher (a free round-trip flight, for example), because vouchers come with restrictions and can be difficult to redeem.
3. Book The Right Airline – JetBlue and Virgin America have almost NO overbooking or bumping issues. In fact, JetBlue has NEVER oversold a flight. Another reason I love that airline.
4. Who Gets Bumped? – If the airline has to bump a passenger they will usually choose them in this order:
- Last To Check In – This is why it is so important to check in online 24 hours in advance.
- Paid The Lowest Fare – If you are like me and are a fare shopper, really there is not much you can do for this item.
- Don’t have advance seat assignments – When you purchase your flights make sure to choose your seat. This is even more important when flying with families. At the very least when you do your online check in confirm or choose your seats. If you do not have an assigned seat in advance of going to the airport, make sure you arrive early to get a seat or at least be at the top of the list.
5. Join Airline Frequent Flyer Programs – This will at least give you some status in the pecking order for who gets bumped. Make sure your frequent flyer number is attached to your reservation.
6. Fly Early in the Day – This helps to avoid those passengers who were bumped or cancelled earlier in the day.
7. Fly Direct – The fewer flights you have to take the less chance you have of being bumped.
8. Buy an Upgrade – If you have a coach ticket you can purchase a seat upgrade to make it less likely for you to be bumped. Coach passengers are the first to be bumped.
9. Avoid The Rush – Try to avoid peak travel days. Best days to travel are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Beware of holiday travel. The day before Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday periods can also be called “bump season”
10. How Do You Get Rebooked? – Once your original flight has left then work with the gate agent to get you booked on your new flight. As well, the gate agent is usually the person who needs to process your compensation for being bumped.
11. The Exception To The Rule – There are a few exceptions to bumping rule and how you are to be compensated:
- If an airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn’t required to pay people who are bumped as a result.
- Flights on an aircraft with 30 through 60 passenger seats, do not owe compensation if you were bumped due to safety-related aircraft weight or balance constraints.
Of course, it is best to do all you can to avoid being bumped in the first place. But if you are bumped make sure to know your rights and make sure you are compensated.
Kimberly Milnes is a mother of 2 boys and owner of Adventures By Kim. She is a Family Travel Expert and professional sharing family travel tips, and information as well as helping families’ plan amazing and hassle free family vacations. Please feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.adventuresbykim.com.