overbooked flight? get money back?

Know your passenger rights, if your plane was overbooked

Overbooking is a common practice in the aviation industry today. Airlines usually overbook a flight (by selling more seats than are available) to compensate passengers who do not show up on the day of the flight. However, this practice is a problem for passengers on flights where there are not enough no-shows. In such cases, there may not be enough seats available, even if the booking has been correctly reserved and confirmed.

Questions and answers

What rights do I have if flights are overbooked?

In these cases, airlines will generally offer compensation in the form of vouchers, upgrades, points or cash to passengers willing to voluntarily give up their seat and fly at a later time. Such a case is considered “voluntary denied boarding”. Therefore a passenger who volunteers to be bumped from his or her flight would not be eligible for airline compensation.

If no passengers willingly give up their seat on the overbooked flight, the airline will be forced to bump some passengers to a later flight. These cases of overbooking are referred to as “involuntary denied boarding”, which would entitle the passengers to denied boarding compensation if the flight is within EU jurisdiction.

Specifically, under EU Regulation 261/2004 regarding passenger rights, any passenger involuntarily denied boarding on an overbooked flight departing from an EU airport, regardless of airline or destination, is eligible for airline compensation. Additionally, passengers overbooked on flights inbound to the EU operated by an EU carrier are also eligible.

This regulation also establishes guidelines for flight delay compensation, flight cancellation compensation, and compensation for denied boarding and missed connections. In these cases, there is a minimum delay of 3 hours to trigger refund payments. However, in the case of involuntary denied boarding due to overbooking, the passenger is automatically eligible for airline compensation and the airline is still obliged to provide an alternative mode of transport or a refund of the ticket.

Being bumped from your flight is unplanned and unpleasant, at best.

What should I do if my flight is overbooked?

  1. Go to the ticket counter of the airline in question. Here you will usually be notified of alternative flights. The airlines are obligated to find a satisfactory solution.
  2. In order to file a valid airline compensation claim, you should ensure you have written evidence of your denied boarding. This can be in the form of your new boarding cards, if such were printed, or your luggage receipts. In addition, you can have airline personnel put your circumstances in writing.
  3. If you required food, accommodation or transport, such as as taxi, it is of utmost importance to keep all receipts to ensure you receive compensation from the airline.
  4. Then consider whether you are in a position to enforce your passenger rights against the airline or tour operator. Keep in mind that the three year claim period only applies to airlines – a tour operator will need to be contacted within one month.

Am I entitled to compensation from the airline for involuntary denied boarding?

EU Regulation 261/2004 stipulates that compensation of up to 600 Euros is due to passengers who were involuntarily denied boarding at an airport within the EU – regardless of airline or destination. Compensation for involuntarily denied boarding is also due to passengers on flights leaving a destination outside the EU for a destination within the EU, as long as such flights are operated by an EU carrier.

In addition to overbookings, the regulation also covers flight delay compensation, flight cancellation compensation, and compensation for missed connecting flights. Flight delay compensation

In the case of involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking, passengers are automatically eligible for airline compensation. In addition, the airline must provide an alternative transport option or reimburse the airline ticket price.


Passengers denied boarding as a result of travelling with invalid travel documents (or without a valid visa) will not be eligible for a refund for overbooking.

What are my options in the event of an overbooked flight?

Being denied boarding and bumped from an overbooked flight is of course not something you have to take in stride. The airline must compensate you. Firstly, the airline must reimburse your unused ticket, including all taxes and fees. Also, the airline needs to provide you with a re-routing (another flight) as soon as possible or at a time convenient to you. However, your airline has a right to wait until it finds a flight with available seats. Whilst you are waiting on your substitute flight the airline must provide you with meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation (if an overnight stay is necessary), transport between the hotel and airport, and two phone calls (or emails or faxes).

Will someone look after me in the event of an overbooked flight?

Yes. Every passenger affected by an overbooked flight has the right to adequate assistance. As mentioned above these include free meals and refreshments as well two phone calls, emails or faxes, lodging and transport between the airport and your hotel. If you have to wait several days on your substitute flight, the airline has to pay for your accommodation on those nights.

Who is entitled to compensation on a business trip?

You are travelling on business and your company has paid for the flight. Your flight fulfils the compensation claim requirements of EU Regulation 261/2004. Who is entitled to receive the compensation?

In accordance with EU Regulation 261/2004, the applicant and claimant is always the air passenger.

That means the air passenger has to create and submit the claim via refund.me and, in the first instance, has the right to receive the compensation, since he or she alone had to bear the inconvenience caused, for example, by a delayed flight. Further details in this connection are not specified in EU Regulation 261/2004.

Ultimately, whether or not you have to hand over the compensation payout to your employer can be governed in your employment contract.

Here, neither EU Regulation 261/2004 nor refund.me are applicable but only the “bilateral” relationship between the employee (air passenger) and employer (payer of the ticket).

Why is my claim still pending if i travelled with others?

That is a very good question and indeed the “big mystery of claim processing”.

There is no rational explanation for that.

However, what it shows is that airlines and courts still do not organize their work most efficiently (e.g. different staff member of a claim processing department adjudicate 2 claims w.r.t. the same flight. Because there are large grey zones especially w.r.t. the so called extraordinary circumstances it might happen that these two claims result in a different final verdict at very different times). But please stay relaxed: the ABL System automatically detects these inconsistencies and the refund.me Settlement Team is dedicated to resolve these situations as fast as possible.

How is the process going?

If you were affected by a missed connecting flight and want to file a claim for missed flight compensation with the help of refund.me, please take the following steps:

  1. Enter the flight data of your missed connecting flight into the claim calculator found on our website.
  2. You will be notified immediately how much you are owed.
  3. Now sign a power of attorney and we will take care of the rest on your behalf.

We will contact the airline in question. If the airline refuses to pay compensation for your missed connection, we will take the claim to court, at no extra cost to you. Our Europe-wide network of passenger rights lawyers has a proven track record in securing compensation for missed connecting flights.

Once the airline has paid out your flight compensation, we’ll keep our commission* of 29.75% (25% success fee plus VAT) and transfer your money directly to your bank account!

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NOTE: We first check each new case against EU law. If there is no positive result here, we also check under the passenger flight right laws of Canada, India, Turkey, Ukraine.