Denied boarding due to over-booking (bumping)

Air carriers often over-book flights (confirm more seats than are available) in order to minimize the impact of last-minute cancellations.

When this happens, an air carrier must first make a request for volunteers willing to take a later flight before a passenger can be denied boarding (bumped) involuntarily. Should there not be enough volunteers, the remaining passengers will be subject to being bumped based on the boarding priorities set out in a carrier’s tariff which give consideration to the needs of persons with disabilities and unaccompanied minors.

Carriers will usually help passengers that are voluntarily or involuntarily “bumped” to find a seat on the next available flight at no additional cost. Compensation for individuals who are denied boarding depends on what is set out in a carrier’s tariff.

As passengers arriving late are usually the ones most likely to be bumped, you can minimize the chances of this happening to you by:

  • Pre-selecting your seats when making your reservation, which may require the payment of a fee;
  • Checking in on-line up to 24 hours in advance of your flight, when available; and
  • Arriving at the airport well in advance of departure to complete the check in process within the carrier’s time limits, clear the security screening checkpoint and reach the boarding gate within the carrier’s deadlines.

If you have been bumped from the flight, there may not be sufficient time to retrieve your bags, so they may leave on the plane without you. You should be able to find them when you arrive at your destination. If you arrive later than your bags, the air carrier’s baggage agent at your destination may have put them away for safekeeping. If your bags cannot be found, report it immediately to your carrier before you leave the airport and obtain tracking information.

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