Imagine that you’ve bought plane tickets,
say, half a year before the flight. You count down the days before the trip, pack
a suitcase, and take a taxi to the airport. There’s a traffic jam on the way, so you
don’t get there early enough to be first at the check-in desk. And yet you’re on time, so you give your
passport to the employee and… You hear that check-in is closed, and there
are no free seats left on the plane. Have you ever found yourself in an overbooking
situation? It can throw you off balance all right. But don’t worry, I’ll let you know why
it occurs, and what to do in case it happens to you. Overbooking means that there are more passengers
checked in for flight than seats on board the plane. It sounds crazy, but airlines usually sell
more tickets than there are seats available on the plane on purpose. That means that having a ticket doesn’t
necessarily guarantee that you’ll be able to fly to your destination. So how can you get the best of the situation? Well, for starters, why on Earth would they
sell more tickets than seats? The thing is that some passengers can buy
tickets at an economical price, so they’re not that worried about it if they have to
cancel for some personal reason, despite the fact that the tickets are non-refundable. Someone might get sick, or change the dates
of the trip. It’s also common for a two-way ticket to
be cheaper than a one-way ticket. As a result, the passenger will buy a two-way
ticket for the price, but not show up for the return flight. To make up for the inevitable lost passengers,
a lot of airlines use overbooking. They sell more tickets than available seats
just to be on a safe side, and ensure the seats will be filled somehow. As a result, you might find yourself standing
in front of a check-in desk among other would-be passengers, whose number is bigger than the
plane can accommodate. And if someone needs to buy a last-minute
ticket right before the flight, and is willing to pay the price, he’ll likely get it, even
if all the tickets are sold out. The airline will sell the ticket at the most
expensive rate and wait to see if there are no-shows for the flight. The airline staff can try to find volunteers
who’ll agree to wait for the next flight in exchange for different perks. But if there are none, the passengers who
were the last to check in won’t be allowed to board. Sometimes overbooking happens because of uncontrollable
major circumstances. If the plane that had to perform the flight
breaks down, the company will have to use a different one, which could be smaller, like
210 seats instead of 250. The “extra” passengers will have to stay
on the ground. Or, come to think of it, they could try to
duct tape the extra passengers to the wings and hope for the best, but their baggage would
still have to stay behind. Actually just kidding on that one. In this case of a smaller aircraft than planned,
there are even more affected people, and more of a mess. One can spend a lot of hours sitting on suitcases
waiting for the staff to solve the problem. And yet, if you’re the one left behind,
you should stand up for your rights. Record all the cases when your rights were
infringed. The carriers shouldn’t get away with overbooking,
and have a responsibility to their clients. If you don’t get on board, then they’ve
not provided the service you paid for, which entitles you to compensation. The sum of which depends on how long you have
to stay in the airport waiting for the next flight, and also on the distance to the destination. Here’s what you need to know about refunds
in the US: If you must wait in the airport for less than
1 hour, there’ll be no compensation, both if you fly within the country or abroad. If you wait for 2 hours or less, you’re
entitled to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination (maximum $675). If you wait 2-4 hours, you should get 400%
of your one-way fare to your destination (maximum $1350) on domestic flights. On international flights it’ll be 200% of
your one-way fare again. When you must wait for more than 4 hours,
you should be paid 400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (maximum $1350)
on both domestic and international flights. The rules are a bit different for airlines
registered in the EU: The compensation for shorter flights would
be about $140 to $275, depending on the distance. For longer distances, the reimbursement would
range from $220 to $445. For flights of more than 2175 miles, it would
be anywhere from be $330 to $665. In the case of a downgrade, you can count
on 25% of the ticket’s cost for shorter flights within the EU, 50% for longer flights,
and 75% for flights of more than 2175 miles. And, just to let you know, the airline still
needs to deliver you to your destination with the next available flight. You could also just claim the money for the
ticket, or go back to the starting point of your trip if it’s a connecting flight. Demand a mobile phone refund, vouchers for
food, and a hotel room if it’s a long enough delay. And yet, seasoned travelers know how to make
the best of overbooking. Sometimes, when you volunteer to wait for
the next flight, you get more than the standard compensation. Sound interesting? Here’s some more advice for you then. Choose the most popular destination in a hot
season. If there are several flights a day, the airline
will bump extra passengers from the earlier flights onto yours. The likelihood of overbooking each of the
following ones will grow with every flight. So you might have a chance to miss several
flights in one day, and get the perks for each of them. Be the first to come to the check-in desk
and ask the airline employee to put you on the list of volunteers to stay back in case
of overbooking. When payback time comes, try to bargain. Claim a premium flight for a bigger sum than
the compensation for the delay is. It’s easier for the airline to give you
a ticket than to return money. An upgrade is another pleasant bonus. Don’t forget to discuss vouchers for free
food, phone calls and hotel accommodation, if it’s a long delay. But just remember, this only works in an overbooking
situation; if you refuse the flight voluntarily, the airline has no obligations to you. If you fly often with an airline of a certain
alliance, and have their silver or golden bonus card, you can also benefit from overbooking. As a rule, the company overbooks tickets to
economy class, and if there’s a seat in business class, you’ll have first dibs at
it. The passengers with no privileges will go
to your seat instead. Despite all these perks, overbooking is more
often a problem than a benefit. All these rules work for regular flights,
but not for charter ones. In the case of overbooking on a charter flight,
you could be sent back to the travel company that sold you the flight. In that case, you can ask for an agreement
termination and a full refund. But the travel company will try to find another
flight for you, for sure. That’s why the best advice here is to be
among the first passengers to the check-in desk. That’s the only guarantee you’ll get on
board. But still, don’t be paranoid. Statistics say that the chances you’ll have
an overbooked domestic flight in the US are 0.08%. As for European companies, the risk is seldom
higher than 1%. And now that you know your rights, it’s
much easier to deal with it! Well how about you, world traveler? Would you volunteer to wait for another flight
in case of overbooking? Or would you claim compensation? Maybe you’ve had to face it once and have
your own advice on how to deal with it? Let me know down in the comments! Hey, if you learned something new today, then
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