Air Travel and Airline Passenger Rights FAQ

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Does the airline have to compensate me if it bumps me off a flight because of overbooking?

If a flight is overbooked, the airline is required to ask passengers to volunteer to take a later flight. Normally, the airline will offer some kind of incentive, such as a free domestic or international round-trip ticket. If an insufficient number of passengers volunteer to be bumped from a flight, the airline must begin involuntary bumping. Generally, passengers with the most recent reservations or those who checked in the latest are the first to be bumped.

If you are bumped, you are entitled to compensation if you have a confirmed reservation (your ticket has an "ok," "hk," or something similar in the status column), the scheduled plane has a seating capacity of more than 60 passengers, and it is not a charter flight. Even if you meet these requirements, the airline might refuse to compensate you if any of the following is true:

  • You did not comply with the airline's ticketing, check-in, and reconfirmation requirements.
  • You are not acceptable for transportation under the airline's usual rules and practices (for example, you are drunk).
  • The entire flight was canceled.
  • A smaller aircraft was substituted for safety or operational reasons.
  • You refuse an offer to take a seat in a different section (class) of the aircraft at no extra charge.
  • The airline offers to place you on another flight or flights scheduled to reach your final destination within one hour of the scheduled arrival of the original flight.

If the airline bumps you due to overbooking, the amount of compensation it must provide depends on when it can get you to your destination on another flight. For details, check out FlyRights, published by the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division (

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