Overbooked flights are the common practice used by airlines all over the world, meaning that they sell more seats then are actually available in a plane. Why air companies allow overbooked flights and what can passengers do in case they turn out to be registered for the overbooked flight.

Why are airlines allowed to overbook?


The price and return policy for air tickets varies to ensure the flight company minimizes the loses no matter what is the reason of the ticket return or passenger doesn’t show up for boarding. That leads to overbooked flights, when passengers who purchased the ticket all of the sudden cannot get on the board and take the flight they paid for.

overbooked flight

The airlines sell number of flight tickets at expensive flexible rates, when a passenger can change the plans and select another flight. For the air company that would mean that one air ticket is not sold because of the short notice. Also the air company will have to return the passenger full or partial amount spent to purchase the flight ticket.

What happens if the passenger who bought a non refundable ticket doesn’t come up for the flight? The air company will be in profit even twice in case this ticket is sold once again.

Everyone knows that passengers coming to the airports after the registration are getting lost in cafes, restaurants and shops. They may overlook their boarding time and miss the flight.

Another reason why air companies sell tickets for the overbooked flights is that in the airports things are permanently changing and unforeseen measures may result in a change of the air craft. The airlines can provide smaller aircraft instead of the one planned. This is how the issue of overbooking turns into a problem, since not all the passengers who bought the tickets can take their fly and leave on time.


Why are flights overbooked?

If the airline company sold more tickets then seats available in a plane and all the passengers came on time for the registration and for boarding, then it is cheaper for the airlines to relocate the passengers for another class of flight seats, – business class instead of economy for example.

That’s the answer to a pleasant surprise one can come across in the airports when surprisingly being upgraded to business class seat.


There is no free seat in any class for the flight

But what happens if there is no free seat in a plane, all the passengers came on time but cannot be accommodated in same plane. Then the air companies starts looking for the volunteers who are OK with flight delay and agree to take another flight.

If nobody volunteered the air company can take a passenger from a flight.


What are the rights of the passengers in case of overbooked flights?

According to the rules of EU air companies and any company departing from the territory of EU any passenger who doesn’t get a seat is allowed for the compensation in the amount of 250 EURO for the flights up to 1500 km.

400 EURO is paid for the flights covering the distance from 1500 to 3500 km.

600 EURO is reimbursed for the flights from more then 3500 km.

overbooked flight compensation

Keep in mind that air companies have the right to reduce the amount of compensation for 50% in case a passenger if offered a change of route by alternative flights, where arrival time is no more then 2 hours from the initial flight covering up to 1500 km, 3 hours for the flights from 1500 – 3500 km and 4 hours for the flights more then 3500 km.

Beside flight compensation the air company must issue a new ticket for the passenger for another date or to return full amount of the ticket.

If a passenger decides to take a later flight the airlines must arrange drinks and food for that person. If period of waiting between the flights is too long then they must organize hotel for the traveler.

Rules for the air companies in USA foresee that a passenger can be taken off the plane and transported by another flight.

If a new flight arrives later then 1 hour in comparison with the final destination in the initial ticket, the air company may not reimburse the costs of the ticket.

If the arrival time is later within 1-2 hours for the territory of USA and within 1-4 hours for the international flights – the air company is to pay compensation in the amount of 200% from the one way flight ticket tariff but no more then $675.

In case time of arrival of the new flight is more then 2 hours compared to the initial routes within the USA and more then 4 hours later for the international flights the air company is to reimburse 400% of one way flight ticket cost but no more then $1350.

A passenger can refuse to take the offered flight and get the reimbursement for the ticket, while the air company is to pay compensation for the inconveniences caused anyway.

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