I can’t remember the last time I traveled and didn’t hear: This flight has been overbooked, we are looking for 10 people blah, blah, blah.
According to Delta.com the reason behind overbooked flights is that every major airline accepts more reservations for flights than it has seats available. This practice is known as overbooking. Flights are overbooked because a certain percentage of passengers are expected to be “no-shows.” This means they change their travel plans but do not cancel their reservations.
If airlines only booked reservations according to the number of seats on a plane, then flights would leave with empty seats and people who would have wanted those seats would be left having to find other options. To avoid this situation, the airline industry monitors no-show trends and books reservations to meet the expected passenger load. But even with the best forecasting techniques, sometimes more customers show up than were expected. The result is an oversold flight.
There is voluntary bumping and involuntary bumping and we are going to give you suggestions for both situations.
If you don’t want to be involuntarily bumped here are a few good tips on your best chance of securing your seat:
Get an advance seat assignment: Even if the airline only has a middle seat left to confirm, be sure you take it. Passengers with seat assignments are typically only bumped if they arrive late and their seat assignment is released.
If you do not have an advance seat assignment, or you want to change your seat assignment, check-in online. Most airlines allow you to check-in online within 24 hours of departure. Seat assignments that were not available at the time of ticketing may be available, including unblocked frequent flyer seats and seat assignments of flyers upgraded to first class. Many airlines automatically upgrade premium flyers within 24-72 hours of departure; at which point their coach seat assignments may be released for pre-assignment.
Get to the airport early: Some airlines reserve a portion of their seat assignment inventory for airport check-in. Also, make sure your name is placed on the “standby” seat assignment list. While your ticket may say “confirmed”, if you do not have a seat assignment, you will be treated by the airline as a “standby” customer. Seats that are held by no-show passengers or passengers that upgrade at check-in to first class are usually distributed to standby passengers in check-in order.
The DOT regulates compensation for involuntary bumping. You have rights when you are being involuntarily bumped:
The airline should arrange substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.
If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $650 maximum.
If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1300 maximum).
If your ticket does not show a fare (for example, a frequent-flyer award ticket or a ticket issued by a consolidator), your denied boarding compensation is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first class) on that flight.
Voluntary bumping occurs when a passenger with a confirmed seat assignment agrees to give up his seat for negotiated compensation. This compensation is not regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT): The airlines give employees guidelines for bargaining with passengers, and they may select those volunteers willing to sell back their reservations for the lowest price.
Know what questions to ask before you volunteer to give up your seat:
*Can you confirm me on a later flight with a seat assignment and what is the schedule?
*Does the voucher or other compensation have an expiration date by when it must be used or redeemed?
*Are there any ‘blackout dates’, such as holidays, when I can not use the voucher/ticket?
*Can the voucher or other compensation be used for international travel?
*Can I make a reservation using the voucher and how far in advance can I make it?
This year I have several trips planned and I am going to voluntarily give up my seat and I will let you know how it works out.
Leave us a comment below and tell us about your flight bumping experiences and suggestions.
Our information comes from Delta, smartertravel.com and travelsense.org.