Can you claim flight compensation for an overbooked flight?
Airlines often overbook flights and are forced to deny boarding to some of their passengers. If you have been bumped from a flight and you have been denied boarding, you are entitled to a compensation payment. The calculation is based on the flight distance to the destination and amounts - depending on the distance - to 600 €, 400 €, 300 € or 250 €. If the airline offers you an alternative flight in the event of denied boarding and you reach your destination within the delay limit, the compensation amount can be reduced by up to 50%. If you do not wish to take the alternative flight, you will be reimbursed partially for your ticket. Additionally, you are entitled to assistance on the day of your travel. You are entitled to free meals and refreshments and the possibility of using telecommunication means. If your alternative flight does not depart until the next day, you can also count on the airline to pay for your accommodation and transfer there.
If you have been denied boarding due to an overbooked flight, MYFLYRIGHT's aviation law experts will be happy to advise you and support you in enforcing your air passenger rights. On our homepage www.myflyright.com you will find a compensation calculator, with which you can check completely free of charge whether there is a possible claim for compensation in your case. If you then wish to make use of our help, we will enforce your right without any cost risk for you. We only charge a commission of 25% plus VAT in case of success. If we have to engage our external lawyers, we charge a surcharge of 10%.
Overbooked flight and denied boarding - meaning
In the aviation industry, it is common practice for airlines to overbook flights. This means that the airline sells more tickets than there are seats on board, in the hope that not all passengers will take their flight. Airlines have developed complex calculation systems, in order to estimate how many no-shows there are likely to be per flight. The amount of tickets to be sold is calculated based on this data. In this way, the airline can maximize ticket sales, ensuring the highest profit for every flight. This is not only the practice of low-budget airlines. For Lufthansa for example, an average of three million passengers do not show up to check into their booked flights each year. It is therefore understandable that airlines use this technique on a regular basis.
If all passengers do take the flight, the airline must try to find volunteers who will agree to rebook. If the airline does not find enough volunteers, then some passengers get bumped from the flight and moved to the next flight. In other cases, airlines use smaller planes to save money if not enough tickets were sold for the originally scheduled flight. Also in this case, some passengers may have to be rebooked on other flights. Passengers on overbooked flights who have been denied boarding against their will are entitled to compensation under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation EC No 261 / 2004. The prerequisite is that they checked in on time, all booking documents were available and the passengers did not pose any safety or health risks to themselves or other passengers. You will also find more information on how to deal with denied boarding in our article Denied boarding.
Your passenger rights in the event of overbooking
Under the EU Regulation 261/2004 on air passenger rights, passengers affected by "involuntary denied boarding" are entitled to compensation, additional services such as meals and refreshments, accommodation and transport. In addition, the airline must offer an alternative means of transportation or one receives a refund for the ticket. Exceptions are passengers who are denied boarding because they are late or traveling with invalid travel documents (or without a valid visa) and passengers who pose safety or health risks to themselves or other passengers. These passengers are not entitled to compensation.
Overbooking compensation rights by route
In order to understand if you have a claim and to calculate the compensation amount, the variables which must be considered are the airline with which you fly, the country of departure and the country of destination. The EU Passenger Rights Regulation protects passengers in case of overbooking if:
- The flight is within the EU, whether the airline is headquartered in the EU or not.
- The flight departs from an EU country and the destination airport is in a non-EU country, regardless of where the headquarters of the airline are.
- The flight departs from a non-EU country and lands in an EU country, providing the airline is headquartered in the EU.
The table below outlines the flight routes which are covered by the EU Regulation.
In addition to overbooking, flight delays, cancelled flights and missed connecting flights are also covered by the EU regulation. For more information, please take a look at our articles Flight delay and Flight cancellation. In these cases, there is a right to compensation if one arrives at the destination airport with a delay of at least three hours. You also have the right to compensation if you take an alternative flight provided by the airline. However, the payment amounts previously described will be reduced by 50% if the flight falls within a specific period of time. Below you will find a table which explains this in more detail:
Overbooked connecting flight: Compensation rules
When connecting flights are made on the same reservation, the airline from which the passengers purchase the tickets is responsible for the entire journey, regardless of whether the connecting flight is with another, non-EU airline. Connecting flights which are departing from and landing in a non-EU country are also covered in this instance. This extension of compensation requirements was ruled by The Court of Justice of the European Union on July 11, 2019. The change to the EU Regulation 261 / 2004 was decided upon according to a case involving passengers travelling from Prague to Bangkok under a single reservation.
The case is as follows:
- Flights were purchased from Prague, which is in the EU, via Abu Dhabi, which is in a non-EU country, with a final destination of Bangkok, which is also outside the EU.
- The first flight was on Czech Airlines, an EU airline, and the connecting flight was on Etihad, a non-EU airline.
- The Czech Airlines flight landed at the scheduled time in Abu Dhabi, whereas the Etihad flight arrived in Bangkok 8 hours late.
Since the tickets were booked under one reservation, the court ruled that Czech Airlines must provide compensation to the affected passengers, even though the first flight was on time. This ruling applies to any connecting flight irregularity, such as denied boarding and delayed or cancelled flights, causing a delay of 3 hours or more at the destination airport, when flights were purchased as a single reservation. This is useful information to have when booking flights, as it broadens the scope in terms of possible compensation for air passengers.
Flight overbooked – additional services
Any passenger affected by an overbooking is entitled to care services. These include free meals and refreshments as well as two telephone calls, faxes or even e-mails. If you have to wait until the next day for your alternative flight, it is important to know that the airline must also cover the cost of the hotel and a transfer to and from the airport. If it is even necessary to wait longer, then several nights will be paid. The following overview shows the rights and services you are entitled to in case of a flight delay:
Overbooked flight: Rights for package travel
When booking a package tour, the flight, accommodation and sometimes travel activities and other services are purchased together. For this type of trip, you are also protected under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation, just like anyone travelling independently, meaning you also have the opportunity of claiming a compensation amount of up to 600 €. Moreover, in case you reach your destination over 4 hours later than the original flight, you have the right to enforce a claim against the tour operator for a price reduction – together with the right to claim against the airline. In this case the Frankfurt Table gives you a guideline on the possible price reductions.
Flight overbooked rights guide: Frankfurt Table
The Frankfurt Table is a summary of judgements of the District Court of Frankfurt in Germany where passengers have experienced flight disruptions such as denied boarding during package travel. It can be used a guideline for when passengers may have a claim, and how much they can expect to receive in terms of a price reduction against the tour operator. It is important to stress that The Frankfurt Table is not legally binding and should therefore be used only as a reference. Cases are judged individually, and price reductions are calculated according to each specific assessment. For more information, please take a look at our article on Package travel.
Business travel – compensation for overbooking
Business travel is defined as travel for work purposes, usually on behalf of the company. The term applies to both the journey to the destination and the trip back home. In most cases, the business trip to another country involves one or several flights. Even though the flights are paid by the company, the passenger still reserves the right to compensation in most cases of flight irregularities such as flight delay, flight cancellation and denied boarding. The only exception is when the traveler’s contract with the company specifies otherwise. Some companies include clauses in the contract that the employees need to waive their right to flight compensation during business trips.
Even in case of business travel, passengers have the same rights as individual travelers. The amount of the compensation depends on the flight distance and business travelers might be entitled to either 250 €, 300 €, 400 € or 600 €. The airline must also provide passengers with additional services including free meals, refreshments and accommodation, depending on the length of their delay.
What to do in case of airline overbooking
First of all, it is important that you immediately visit the ticket counter of the respective airline. There, you will usually be informed about alternative flights. The airlines are obliged to look for a satisfactory solution. In order to make a claim for compensation later, it is advisable to keep proof of the reason for overbooking or denied boarding. This can be done by saving your new boarding passes and baggage tags. You can also ask for a confirmation in writing from the staff stating the exact facts. In case your alternative flight departs the next day and you require a hotel, any meals or a cab, it is also of the utmost importance to keep the receipts.
Bumped from flight - ticket refund
When you need your flight ticket refunded, it is important to know your rights and what you should receive from the airline. In addition to compensation of up to 600 €, you should receive a full ticket refund or a refund for unused legs of the journey and the earliest possible return flight, free of charge, to the original departure airport. For more information please take a look at our article Ticket refund.
Help from MYFLYRIGHT
If you experienced denied boarding due to airline overbooking, you can always contact MYFLYRIGHT. To avoid the financial risk, as well as the time-consuming and stressful nature of the process, you can delegate your case to us. We are experts in passenger rights and we can help you get the compensation you are entitled to. If you wish, MYFLYRIGHT will pursue your case against the airline without any cost risk.
Below you will find a list of the most common cases of airline overbooking that we have processed.
Air Europa overbooking
British Airways overbooking
In case of a 3 hours flight delay at arrival
In case of a cancelled flight 14 days before departure
In case of overbooking / denied boarding
Delayed / Lost luggage
In case of arriving without the luggage
In case of a missed / not boarded flight