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Denied Boarding: Get a Compensation When You're Bumped Off an Overbooked Flight

It has become common practice for airlines to overbook their flight, taking the risk to deny boarding to passengers: they sell more tickets than they have seats on the plane.

Why would they do that, right?!

The short answer is simple: money.

Because some passenger never show up for their flight, even though they have a reservation. In most cases, they don't know that a passenger won't make it to her flight, so they see this as a missed opportunity to make more money.

So they decided to play the odds: they sell more tickets than there are seats, anticipating that some passengers won't show up, so in the end there would be a seat for everyone.

Only, they can't predict that accurately. As a result, thousands of passengers every year are denied boarding because of flight overbooking. If this happens to you, know that your passengers cover this situation and that you can claim compensation.

Below, you will learn the step-by-step process to ensure that you get a flight compensation for boarding denial.

Denied boarding - when does it happen?

Once a passenger has received her flight ticket or any document stating she has been accepted and registered for the flight, she has a “confirmed reservation”. Boarding denials happen when a passenger present herself to the gate but the airline refuses her access to the plane.

Even if some cases of denied boarding are a result of a problem with travel documents, concerns about security or health, most registered cases continue to be caused by overbooking. Overbooking is the case when the airline sold more tickets than there are seats on the plane - and every buyer showed up for the flight.

How do airlines choose which passengers to deny boarding?


Airlines are required to start by calling for volunteers to give up their reservation - in exchange, they can provide those passengers some benefits: money, a voucher, a trip free of charge, hotel services, placement on a higher class once at another time, a bonus card… The value of the benefits is determined by the airline, so should you decide to surrender your seat, be prepared to bargain and make the most of the situation!

However, and this is crucial:

If you want to get a compensation for denied boarding, do not accept to surrender your seat voluntarily. This would waive your right to flight compensation. This is why it is important to know how much you can get for being denied boarding: if the airline can offer you something that you value more, feel free to take it!

In the event that not enough volunteers present themselves, anyone is likely to be denied boarding against their will, with the exception of people with reduced mobility and those accompanying them. That means: the airline will randomly pick people who won't be accepted on board.

What kind of compensation am I entitled to if I have been denied boarding against my will?

Should the airline deny you boarding against your will, you have a choice between 3 options. You can ask:

  • A refund of your ticket within 7 days and a return flight to your initial point of departure if you need it.
  • To be booked on another flight to your destination as soon as possible. If there are no flights available, the airline must provide you with an alternative transport (bus, train etc.) and pay for the ticket.
  • Another ticket to your destination, at a later date of your choosing.

This is your right to refund or re-routing.

In addition, the airline should take care of you, for example provide a meal and refreshment in proportion with the delay, as well as accommodation and transport from the hotel to the airport should you need to stay one night or more.

But that's not all you are entitled to if you had to surrender your seat against your will!

According to Regulation (EC) 261/2004, you are also entitled to a compensation if the delay at your final destination amounts to 3 hours or more:

Should you decide not to be re-routed on another flight or accept to be re-routed but arrive at least 3 hours later than you should have with your original booking, you can claim:

  • €250 for flights of 1500 km or less;
  • €400 for flights between 1500 and 3500 km;
  • €600 for flights of more than 3500 km.

The great news is that the airline is supposed to pay you directly at the airport! If they don't, check out this post to learn how to claim compensation, if you haven't done so already.

You are not entitled to compensation for denied boarding in the following cases:

  • You didn't check-in on time (the time limit to check-in for your flight is mentioned in your booking confirmation, on the airline's website and usually on your boarding pass)
  • You didn't reach the gates on time (again, the time limit should be on your booking confirmation and boarding pass - each airline has their own policy)
  • You didn't present the required travel documents (e.g. the visa required to go to your destination)
  • You represented a security or health problem

The EU Regulation considers that these cases of denied boarding are not the responsibility of the airline but your own, and therefore waives the airline's obligation to pay compensation.

As mentioned, you won't be eligible if you surrender your seat voluntarily either.

If you think that you're eligible to a compensation, start your claim right now!

You can claim a compensation for denied boarding in the US as well


Calculating the amount of the compensation is a bit more complicated than in Europe, but the good news is that you might be eligible to more money!

First, the compensation varies depending on whether you were booked on a US domestic flight or an international one (departing from the US and arriving abroad).

Then, you must calculate your delay at your final destination, if you have been re-routed. If you decide to make your own arrangements, then the compensation is simply the full refund of your ticket.

Finally, the amount of your compensation is determined by the price of your ticket.

Bottom line, you are entitled to:

  • nothing if you arrive less than 1 hour late, no matter whether it is an international or domestic flight.
  • 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $675) for domestic flights with a delay between 1 and 2 hours and international flights with a delay between 1 and 4 hours.
  • 400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $1350) for domestic flights with a delay of more than 2 hours and international flights for a delay of more than 4 hours.

Read this to learn more about your passenger rights in th US.

Final Words on Boarding Denials

A case of denied boarding can really ruin your trip, just as much as a long delay or cancellation. If you have the time, preparing a backup plan could be a good idea before going to the airport.

At least, now you know what to do if you are denied boarding and how to claim your compensation!

And don't forget to subscribe to the ClaimCompass newsletter: in addition to travel tips that you won't find on the blog, you'll get a free checklist to know if you're entitled to compensation from your airline!


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Denied Boarding: Get a Compensation When You're Bumped Off an Overbooked Flight
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