One of the worst things you can experience after planning a trip for months is to arrive at the airport and be told by your airline that you are getting bumped off your flight.
It doesn’t happen often and some airlines even have adopted policies of not overselling their flights. But occasionally, it does happen and consumers should know their rights before heading to the airport.
Here are some pointers from the U.S. Department of Transportation:
What happens if I get ‘bumped’ by my airline?
Denied boarding, also known as “bumping,” usually occurs when a flight is oversold. Airlines will often seek volunteers to take a later flight to prevent denied boarding.They’ll often negotiate terms of a voucher at the gate.
Passengers who voluntarily give up their seats usually get rebooked to a later flight and also get some form of compensation, usually a voucher for a future flight. The airline is required to make terms of the voucher clear to those who accept them.
What should I do if I’m involuntarily bumped?
It’s legal for airlines to bump passengers from their flights and usually prioritize who is removed based on passenger check-in time, amount paid for the ticket and frequent-flier status. Airlines are required to give bumped passengers a written statement describing their rights and how it was determined they were selected.
“Airlines may deny boarding or remove you from a flight even after accepting your boarding pass and informing you that you may proceed to board if the denial or removal is due to a safety, security, or health risk, or due to a behavior that is considered obscene, disruptive or otherwise unlawful,” the department said.
How much should I get for being bumped?
There’s a formula for compensation for passengers bumped from a domestic flight. If passengers are delayed by an hour or less getting to their destination, there’s no additional compensation. If there’s a one- to two-hour arrival delay, the compensation should be 200 percent of the one-way fare up to $775. If the delay is more than two hours, it’s 400 percent of the one-way fare up to $1,550.
There also are circumstances in which a passenger may not receive compensation due to bumping. That happens when a smaller-capacity plane is substituted for the aircraft originally planned on the trip, when flight crews determined there are weight and balance safety concerns for the plane, when a passenger is downgraded from a higher class to a lower class of service (passengers should get the difference between the two fares), on charter flights and flights on aircraft with 30 or fewer seats.