OVER BOOKED FLIGHTS IN THE US

In a previous article, Travel Advice Pages, gave advice on compensation if your flight was delayed.

If you are “bumped” off a flight it is a different situation. Sadly, it is a fact of holiday air travel that over-booking of flights has become a common practice by airlines. Before resigning yourself to spending the night on the floor of the departure lounge, we offer some facts and advice.

In the US, if you are “bumped” off your flight and the airline cannot get you to your destination within one hour of your original arrival time; US Federal Law requires that you are paid the equivalent of a one-way fare ($200-400) depending on the length of delay. This is somewhat inadequate particularly if you may suffer financial loss perhaps due to missing that important business meeting. Insist on a cash payment  as some  vouchers come with restrictions and may be difficult to redeem. It is a good idea, while waiting for some action at the check in desk to call the airline direct for help. Most have 800 series telephone numbers and you may get ahead of fellow sufferers by circumventing airport computer systems which  allocate priority to “Frequent Flyers” or those who have paid full price for a seat.

In busy holiday periods, it is wise to have a “Plan B”giving alternative flights so you can ask to be rebooked on another carrier. Many airlines will refuse but it is worth a try.

One way of avoiding being “bumped” is to research which US domestic carriers have a low incidence of overbooking. The US Department of Consumer Protection website will  provide you with statistics about this practice and other facts about your chosen airline.

Remember that the people in the cheap seats have the lowest priority.   ”Frequent Flyers,” First and Business Class passengers and those who have paid full fare are the most likely to win in an overbooked situation.  Always aim to arrive early as late check ins are the first to suffer.

Be aware that compensation does not apply to charter flights or scheduled flights with less than 60 passengers. Also, that the above information applies to US Domestic Carriers and may vary with international flights. Unfortunately, if the airline has to substitute a smaller aircraft for the one it planned to use – there is no compensation for you.

Hopefully, with our Travel Advice you can avoid spending a night on the floor in the airport!!

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