You might be familiar with the videos of passengers being dragged off the flight on social media. Airlines have legal right to overbook seats to maximize the profit, planning that some percentage of passengers will not show up for the flight. If a sold seat remains empty, airlines miss the opportunity for more revenue. Statistical analysis helps airlines to handle this scenario.
Under EU law, you have certain rights if you are bumped from a flight. To be covered by these rules, your flight must be either:departing from an EU airport and operated by any airline or
arriving at an EU airport and operated by an EU airline (Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.)
Volunteering to be bumped
When a flight is overbooked, some passengers need to be denied boarding. If you volunteer to be bumped, it’s up to you and your airline to agree compensation. Often, airlines will make a compensation offer at the gate, which might be cash or vouchers.
If you volunteer to be bumped, you are also entitled to an alternative flight or a refund.
If you are denied boarding against your will, you are entitled to compensation, as long as you checked-in for your flight on time.
The level of compensation depends on the length of your flight and the timings of the alternative route you are offered:
The compensation amount is €250 for all flights 1,500 kilometers or less, €400 for all intra community flights more than 1500 kilometers, and for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometers. €600 for all other flights with flight distance more than 3,500 kilometers.
The operating air carrier may reduce the compensation by 50% if the arrival time does not exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight originally booked by two hours for short-haul, by three hours for medium-haul, and four hours for long-hauls.
For short-haul flights that cover less than 1,500km:
- -If the delay is less than two hours, you can claim €125
- -If the delay is more than two hours, you can claim €250
For medium-haul flights that cover 1,500km – 3,500km, or flights within the EU of more than 1,500km:
- -If the delay is less than three hours, you can claim €200
- -If the delay is more than three hours, you can claim €400
For long-haul flights that cover more than 3,500km:
- -If the delay is less than four hours, you can claim €300
- -If the delay is more than four hours, you can claim €600
In determining the distance, the basis shall be the last destination at which the denial of boarding or cancellation will delay the passenger’s arrival after the scheduled time.
No matter whether you volunteered or were forced to be bumped, your airline must also let you choose between two options:
1. Choose an alternative flight
Your airline must offer you an alternative flight. It’s up to you whether to fly as soon as possible, or at a later date that suits you. Airlines often refer to this as being ‘rerouted’.
If you want to fly as soon as possible, your airline must also provide care and assistance while you wait for the flight. This means food, drink, communications and accommodation, if you stay overnight.
2. Receive a refund
If you don’t want to fly, you can get your money back instead. You’ll get a refund for all parts of the ticket you haven’t used.
For instance, if you have booked a return flight and you are bumped from the outbound leg, you can get the full cost of the return ticket back from your airline.
If you’re part-way through a journey, your airline should also provide a flight back to your starting point.