Our last blog - “What? I CAN Be Bumped From My Flight?” – must have hit a chord with our readers. Granted, it was on the heels of the United Airlines incident, but that blog received five times more hits than the previous blogs.
As a follow-up to that article, we wanted to provide you with more information on how you can prevent yourself from being bumped from an airline flight.
Jennifer McKee of Where Magazines, did a very insightful and informative article on your rights as a passenger and what to do if your flight is overbooked. It also offers ways to ferret out flights that may be more prone to cancellations, delays and “bumps”.
The DOT’s website, Fly Rights (https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights) offers A Consumer Guide To Air Travel. This is an excellent source of information on what a traveler can do legally to prevent oneself from being deplaned.
Following is Ms. McKee’s article detailing a traveler’s options in an overbooked flight situation:
What to Do When Your Flight is Overbooked
By Jennifer McKee of Where Magazine
It's a reality of air travel: the overbooked flight. Getting bumped from an overbooked flight can cost time and money.
It helps to know your rights—and the airlines' policies—before you make your way to the gate.
What is Overbooking and What Can You Do?
First off, overbooking is not illegal. It is a practice the airlines regularly deploy to make up for no shows. But it is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
According to the DOT website, "When an oversale occurs, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires airlines to ask people who aren't in a hurry to give up their seats voluntarily, in exchange for compensation."
Christopher Elliott, consumer advocate and syndicated columnist, said that the DOT's Fly Rights website should be a traveler's first stop to learn about his or her rights. Of particular importance, he noted, is the written statement describing a traveler's rights when getting involuntarily bumped—it explains how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't.
"If you don't get it voluntarily, ask for it," said Elliott. "It you don't ask for it, the airline can claim whatever it wants to."
By law, passengers who are bumped are required to receive compensation; however, that compensation varies according to whether a traveler is voluntarily or involuntarily bumped. According to the DOT's most recent Air Travel Consumer Report, more than 40,000 passengers were involuntarily bumped from flights on the nation's top 12 airlines in 2016. More than 400,000 were bumped voluntarily.
Elliott also said you should be aware of when the next flight to your destination is leaving and how long the delay will be, in order to lobby for hotel accommodations and meal vouchers.
"There comes a time when you have to start negotiating," said Elliott. "Don't leave it to the generosity of the airline—even the best airlines are not generous, they are programmed to say 'no' at every turn."
How to Avoid Overbooked Flights
There are some key things you can do, said Elliott, to reduce the likelihood you'll get involuntarily bumped from your flight. One is to not fly during peak days, such as the Fourth of July or a day or two before Thanksgiving. Also, if you can, stay away from regional carriers, who are the worst offenders when it comes to overbooking.
The second most common offenders, said Elliott, are legacy carriers such as United, American and Delta; low-cost carriers such as Jet Blue and Southwest are rarely guilty of overbooking, he said.
According to the DOT website, those who get bumped first are usually those with the lowest-priced fares and those who check-in last, so if it's important you make the flight, check-in and arrive as early as possible.
"Your civil rights are suspended on a plane," said Elliott. "You can be kicked off a plane for any reason. It's a different dynamic."