air travel: airline overbooking + bumping

May 3, 2017

The recent United Airlines (UA) incident of a passenger forcibly dragged off the plane, started with UA involuntarily bumping passengers from a fight.

I’m sure it got all of us asking: can the airline really do this – that is, involuntarily bump a confirmed and boarded passenger off a flight? Actually, yes, they can. Because, you signed a contract when purchasing the ticket, giving the airline that right.

I checked. United Airlines’ Contract of Carriage has this language. It’s also in the confirmation email that the airlines sent you. They not only make it in fine prints, but also in light-color fonts. We recently bought tickets (from a different airline). Sure enough, it’s there.

 

 

 

 

The language is actually part of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

14 CFR 250.11 – Public disclosure of deliberate overbooking and boarding procedures

NOTICE – OVERBOOKING OF FLIGHTS
Airline flights may be overbooked, and there is a slight chance that a seat will not be available on a flight for which a person has a confirmed reservation. If the flight is overbooked, no one will be denied a seat until airline personnel first ask for volunteers willing to give up their reservation in exchange for compensation of the airline’s choosing. If there are not enough volunteers, the airline will deny boarding to other persons in accordance with its particular boarding priority. ….persons denied boarding involuntarily are entitled to compensation.

Certainly, injuring and dragging a passenger off the plane is not what the regulation has in mind. For most other bumped passengers, other than monetary compensations, you have very little recourse. What compensations are you entitled, when involuntarily bumped?

  1. 200% of the fare, with a maximum of $675 USD, if the airline arranged for you to arrive at your destination, more than one hour but less than two hours, after your original planned arrival time.
  2. 400% of the fare, with a maximum of $1,350 USD, if the airline arranged for you to arrive at your destination, more than two hours, after your original planned arrival time.
  3. You can insist on the airline issuing a check for the compensation, rather than accepting an airline voucher.
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One Response to “air travel: airline overbooking + bumping”

  1. annalice said

    lots of fine print that nobody reads before booking hahah

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