Overbooking seats by most airlines on common routings is a routine thing as they know that a few people out of the hundreds of tickets sold to passengers probably won’t turn up. They then have empty seats, so what many airlines do is sell some seats twice in a bid to make more money. If every reservation turns up, however, someone is going to get bumped. Getting bumped does not mean you lose the flight, period.

If you get bumped

If you are going on holiday with your family or are traveling on business, getting bumped involuntarily could be a nightmare for you. However, if you don’t mind being knocked back until the next flight, or indeed the next day, then you could earn some cash and possibly a free flight, depending on the airline.

Things to remember when bumped:

  • You will be put on the next available flight, so if there is clearly no way for you to fly on this one, sit back and take it easy as the airline has the obligation to get you where you have paid to go.
  • Don’t make alternative arrangements, and stay in the check-in area until you have been told what to do.
  • If you have been offered and accept compensation (flight vouchers or cash), it will be tough to take any action against the airline.
  • If you are not happy with the way you were treated, or with the compensation, write to the the airline. If you are not happy with the airline’s response, contact the relevant airport authoritative body in the country in question.

Getting bumped voluntarily

  • Be sure to book any flights during major holiday times, peak seasons or during the weekend as there is more chance of bumping going on during busy periods.
  • You can check if the flight has been overbooked beforehand by calling the airline in question or your travel agent.
  • Get to the airport nice and early and tell the ticketing agents that you would like to fly on standby. If and when the time comes to ask for voluntary standby, they will then come to you first and offer compensation.

Before you offer yourself on standby, be sure to check out what is being offered as compensation as it may not be worth the effort. Vouchers for flights at a later date may often work out inadequate and generally come with restrictions.

Many airlines offer vouchers for cash (redeemable at the airline’s offices around the world) and flight vouchers. You often get to choose. If the next available flight is the following day, as is often with long haul flights, you will be allocated free accommodation in a nice, local hotel.

Avoid getting bumped

Make sure you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare and are not at the back of the check-in line. You have more risk of getting bumped if you arrive late at the airport and clear security at the last minute.