When it comes to travel, overbooked flights can be an unfortunate reality.
For jet setters, that can mean extra time sitting at the gate waiting for the next available flight.
Here’s what to know if it happens to you:
1. Overbooking is common
While inconvenient, the business practice of bumping is not illegal, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In order to compensate for "no-shows," airlines overbook their scheduled flights to a certain extent, allowing them to keep the flights as close to full capacity as possible.
2. There’s a silver lining
Airlines are required by the DOT to seek out customers who are willing to volunteer to take another flight when there are more passengers ready to fly than there are seats available. Often, they will sweeten the deal by offering compensation or a transportation voucher in exchange for volunteering. For those who aren’t in a rush, a voucher could make the extra time sitting at your gate worth it. Before taking it, however, travelers should inquire about restrictions that may apply.
3. Bumping can happen
When not enough volunteers come forward who are willing to switch flights, airlines can deny boarding — or “bump” passengers against their will. There are parameters in place, however. For instance, the DOT requires each airline to give passengers who are involuntarily bumped a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't. Travelers who do not get to fly are frequently entitled to denied boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash. The amount depends on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay. Of note: while bumping can happen at any time, airlines are more likely to oversell flights during busy travel periods such as spring break and the summer season.
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