Overbooked flights Q&A

TransportUnited Kingdom

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How common are overbooked flights? Are you entitled to compensation? We answer these and more questions you may have about overbooked flights.

Last Sunday the pros and cons of airlines overbooking flights spilled from travel blogs and Ted-ed videos on to the evening news. The reason behind this is the now infamous video, that spread through social media like wildfire, in which an elderly, bloodied passenger is being forcibly dragged out of a United Airlines flight.

On Sunday April 9 Mr. David Dao, a medical doctor from Kentucky, was forcibly removed by law enforcement officers from a United Airlines Flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, because the flight was fully booked and the airline wanted four passengers to make way for staff members. After no passengers volunteered to give up their seats, airline stewards began choosing people to leave. Dr. Dao was one of those chosen, however after he refused to move a situation arose which resulted in his forceful removal from the plane.

While Dr. Dao's case is thankfully a rarity, overbooked flights are not. We have provided some basic information which you may or may not know when it comes to overbooked flights.

Overbooking is more common than you think

Overbooking is more common than you think
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Why does it happen?

Overbooking is a fairly common practice in the air travel industry. Airlines always expect a number of passengers to miss their flight, and since flying a plane with empty seats is not cost effective, by selling more tickets than places air carriers boost their profit margins. Travelers may also be asked to give up their seat if the airline has to transport staff or an air marshal.

You will not be escorted from the plane

You will not be escorted from the plane
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How often are flights overbooked?

In the UK alone overbooking results in 50.000 passengers being denied boarding every year. In the United States 46.000 were denied boarding in 2015 alone, according to the Department of transportation. While both these figures may seem worryingly high don't forget to put them into context, in 2015 613 million people flew on major US airlines which means that only 0.008% were forced to miss their flight.

Will you be escorted from the plane?

Normally an airline will announce that a flight is overbooked before boarding. The case of Dr. Dao, where passengers were asked to leave after they had taken their seats, was an anomaly, one that United have sworn would never happen again.

Are you entitled to compensation?

Airlines offer incentive to get passengers to give up their seats. This usually takes the form of free tickets, travel or meal vouchers or cash. In the US, for a long haul flight, the minimum cash compensation is 400USD the maximum is 1350USD. In the UK if you are bumped off your long haul flight the compensation is usually 600EUR.

How do airlines pick who gets bumped off?

If you are travelling business or first class your chances of being bumped off are less than if you are flying economy. It goes without saying that travelers that require extra care or assistance, for example children or the elderly, as well as those accompanying them are also not likely to be asked to give up their seats.

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Dmitry Petrunin
Posted on 15/04/2017 3 shares
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