They’re asking for volunteers to sit this flight out because it has been overbooked.
You can’t afford to miss this flight. Maybe you’ve got a connection in the next city; maybe your meeting starts shortly after your feet hit the ground at your destination; maybe you’ve been traveling for 12 straight hours and must get home on time … in order to wake up on time to head out yet again. At any rate, you keep your head down and hope someone else’s schedule is more flexible than yours.
Unfortunately — everyone else is doing the same thing.
And then, it happens. You are involuntarily bumped.
In other words, you’ve been randomly selected (though, some say those who have checked in earlier than others stand a better chance of keeping their seat) to not take the flight you bought.
You know that you’d be offered a voucher, accommodations, or other perks by an airline if you voluntarily bump yourself, but what happens when the airline makes the choice for you?
You’ve got options.
Per the U.S. federal government, regulations are in place to ensure that you will be fairly compensated for the trouble of losing the spot that you paid for in full. Specifically:
“The airline must give you a written statement describing your rights, as well as the airline’s boarding priority rules and criteria. If the airline is not able to get you to your final destination within one hour of your original arrival time, the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare, with a maximum of $650 . . . An airline may offer you a free ticket on a future flight in place of a check, but you have the right to insist on a check.”
A few other specific points to note:
Check out the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement site for additional information, and corresponding rules/parameters.
I talked to some of our travel counselors, and the good news is that it’s very infrequent that a traveler is involuntarily bumped. However, if it happens to you, don’t be one of the over 98% of travelers who don’t know their rights, or chooses not to pursue the compensation due to them. Remember, either you lose out entirely by not pursuing this compensation at all, or, if “an airline offers you a voucher and you accept it . . . ‘then all bets are off.’”
Here are a couple more tips from our travel counselors, whether you’re involuntarily bumped, or your flight is delayed or cancelled:
You work hard for your time and your money. Don’t let an overbooked flight make you lose a piece of what you toil so tirelessly to earn!