What To Do When Your Airlines Overbook?

When we have a flight to catch, most of us get paranoid on factors like packing our things up, switching off the lights and checking if doors are locked before leaving, traffic jams and security checks. But what we hardly come to terms with is the fact that we can be denied from boarding our flights if the airlines want us to. Called overbooking, if airlines are overbooked, they could simply ask you to leave the flight without second thoughts. If you remember a very recent fiasco at the Chicago international airport, you would know how a doctor was ‘voluntarily’ dragged from his seat and made to deboard his flight. While most of us presume that a boarding pass and security clearances entitle us to our flights, if airlines overbooked, we could be very well asked to step down from the flight. Why does this happen and what to do when airlines overbooked?

To help you out on all the basic questions, here is a detailed post.

What is overbooking?

Overbooking is a very popular concept in the hospitality sector, where hotels and hotels book rooms and seats more than what they have in their inventories. It is partly legal and industry experts claim that it is a very calculated risk that the industry takes to save itself from probable losses of revenues. If you see, no-shows are common in hotels and flights, where a reserved room or seat remains vacant because of guests not showing up. To compensate for their loss, the industry overbooks. If hotels overbooked, they either ask guests to wait until a room is checked-out or are walked to another hotel of the same chain. Unfortunately, however, this doesn’t happen when airlines overbooked.

If airlines are overbooked, you are neither sent on the next flight nor redirected to another flight to carry on with your journey. You are just asked to get back home. But what happens to the money you paid? Read on to find about the compensations when airlines overbooked.

Voluntary Deboarding

When airlines are overbooked, they usually ask the boarded passengers if anyone was ready to volunteer to get off the flight. If they manage to find volunteers, you are in for a relief, and the airlines would allow you to board your flight. If they don’t find a volunteer, you would be denied your seats, again. The incident at the Chicago airport was a very rare case where a passenger was dragged out of the airline. Though legal, it is the harshness that made it to the news.


Initially, the DGCA regulations stated that a passenger could not take his or her case of being denied of a flight because of overbooking to the court because airlines are allowed to bump off their passengers if airlines are overbooked. However, after a petition was filed by a lawyer on the rules and regulations of the DGCA regarding overbooking and compensations, the policies were modified by the court.

According to the decision, a passenger who has been refused to board his or her flight on the grounds of overbooked flights can now file a case against the airline and claim damages apart from what is prescribed under the regulations of the DGCA.

  • The new regulations reveal that a passenger has now two types of compensations:
  • Alternative arrangements by the airlines to ensure the passenger boards a flight to his or her destination

Full fare refund or monetary compensations

So if your airlines overbooked the next time you fly, do not go paranoid but wait for them to get back to you instead. If they fail to get volunteers willing to sacrifice their seats for you, you can play your compensation card on them. This could be any of the two compensations we mentioned above.

Apart from this, you are also entitled to receiving up to Rs. 4000 as compensation for flights with a block time of over 2 hours. For the uninitiated, block time refers to the time taken between flight push back and its arrival at destination gate. The compensatory price decreases for reduced block times.

The same policy applies for international flights as well as the only difference being in the fact the compensation will be more. So the next time you are in a situation where airlines overbooked, you know what to do. Spread the word on this and let your friends and family know about this new regulation.

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