An overbooked flight is when too many seats have been sold for a flight and there aren’t enough seats to accommodate all the passengers who want to check-in and fly. Overbooking flights is common practice in the airline industry and means that an airline can still fill their plane even if there are last-minute cancellations. If you are one of the unlucky passengers who has been told there is no seat left for you, it is sometimes known as being ‘bumped’ off a flight.

If this happens, what can you do?
If you are travelling to or from an EU country, you have extra rights. If the airline says you are not permitted to board the airplane because of overbooking, this is known as denied boarding. If this happens, you could get compensation.

When a flight is overbooked, the airline will ask passengers if anyone is willing to volunteer to remove themselves from the flight and take a later one instead. Incentives will normally be offered to compensate such as being given an upgrade on the later flight, or a free flight in the future. If you volunteer to be bumped off a flight, you will not be entitled to any other compensation.

If you do not volunteer to be bumped off the flight and you have checked in on time, you should be given either:

– A full refund on your ticket, provided it is valid.
– Offered another flight

If you have to wait for a later flight, you may be entitled drinks and a meal. If you have to take a flight the next day, you may also be entitled to hotel accommodation and transport between the hotel and airport.

If you are bumped off a flight it may also be worth checking your travel insurance policy to see what they offer – although you will only be able to claim off either your insurer or the airline, not both.

If you are travelling from or to a country outside of the EU, your rights are slightly different. If you are flying from the EU you will be entitled to compensation. However if you are flying into the EU you can only claim compensation if there are no local laws which help. Again, check your travel insurance policy as it may cover you. If your travel insurance does not cover you, you may be able to claim the cost of the flights back from your debit or credit card provider on the card which paid for the flights.