Denied Boarding? Be aware of your passenger rights.
Many of us who travel regularly are well aware of the rules for denied boarding, i.e. ‘The Bump’. And many who travel regularly actually try to arrange their flights in order to take advantage of this. But for those who don’t travel often here is some infomation for when you may find yourself being denied boarding because the airline has oversold the flight. With fewer flights and more people flying, this is something that can definitely happen to any passenger at any time. It pays to know your rights.
There are two types of denied boarding. The first is voluntary denied boarding, This is when a flight is oversold and the airline asks for volunteers to give up their seats for a later flight. The gate agent will begin by making offers starting low in the $100- $200 range and increase it if no one accepts. They will eventually go to a free roundtrip trip nationwide if nobody accepts the dollars off offers. Note these vouchers for a ‘free flight’ are capacity controlled and limited to the same seat availability as frequent flyer seats and cannot be booked with anyone except that airline directly and often involves a fee. Voluntary denied board is unregulated by the DOT and the airline can offer anything but you have no recourse after you accept their offer.
Involuntary boarding is much different. This is when the airline oversells a flight and it departs but you are not allowed to board. This is where you have passengers rights. The airline is required to give you a copy of those rights upon request. They will offer you future travel vouchers – DO NOT accept these. You have the right to request money and you are entitled to. They are still required to get you to your destination on another flight and compensate you financially.
The Passenger Bill of Rights states that if an airline can get you to your final destination within one hour of your original scheduled arrival then nothing is owed. If they can get you there within 1-2 hours they owe you 2x the original one way fare up to a maximum of $650. If they exceed 2 hours they owe you 4x the original one way with a maximum of $1300. You are entitled to a payment in cash, so if the airline attempts to give you a voucher, insist on cash. Vouchers usually come with restrictions on use.
Examples of this would be as follows:
A normal last minute fare LGA-CAE nonstop on Delta is $478. If you were denied boarding due to an oversell you would be due 4x that amount with a max of $1300 as they have no other flights that arrive within 2 hours.
A situation recently faced by my husband’s business colleague involved a connection in Charlotte which was a bit more complicated. The CLT-CAE leg was oversold but they boarded LGA-CLT. This is where it gets tricky. If denied boarding on the 2nd leg CLT-CAE, the calculation involves determining the percentage of the denied leg and that is your figure for compensation. These are all figured on full unrestricted Y fares (which nobody actually pays).
Let’s say someone boards LGA-CLT but is denied boarding for CLT-CAE.
Full Y fare LGA-CLT $3499
Full Y fare CLT-CAE $1407
You must determine the percentage of that fare which is denied boarding (CLT-CAE) which is $1407 or 29% to figure out the rest. In this case the figure is $141.23. Because US Airways couldn’t get them home within 2 hrs. that figure is 4x the $141.64 or $564. This is in addition to getting them to their final destination.
A PDF of the Denied Boarding rules can be found here.
For international flights, the rules are a little different. You are entitled to 2x the amount of a one way fare, up to $650 if you arrive one to four hours after your scheduled arrival time. If you arrive more than four hours later than your originially scheduled arrival, you should receive 4x the cost of the one way fare, up to $1300.
If you are traveling within the EU, Regulation (EC) 261/2004 requires airlines to compensate passengers if their flight is cancelled or heavily delayed. This regulation applies to all flights within the EU/EEA or Swiss region, or departing an EU/EEA or Swiss airport, or arriving in the region and run by an EU/EEA or Swiss airline.
The airlines are also required to offer you meals, refreshments, and hotel accommodations as appropriate while you wait for a rearranged flight. The airlines should also cover any transport costs between the hotel and the airport. There are no time or monetary limists on the provision of this assistance.
The European Union’s Regulation 261/2004 will apply if:
- Your flight is departing from an airport located in an EU Member State; or
- Traveling to an EU Member State on an airline based in an EU Member State
If you have a confirmed reservation on the flight and arrived in time for check-in, UNLESS you’re travelling on a free or discounted ticket (however, you are still covered by EU 261/2004 on an award ticket).
The rules state that airlines must provide passengers with accommodation, meals and refreshments, and transport between the airport and accommodation.
Cash compensation depends on the length of your flight:
- Flight of less than 1500 km: €250
- Flight within the EU greater than1500 km; or any flight greater than 1500 km but less than 3500 km: €400
- Flight not within the EU greater than €3500 km: €600
Rerouting or refunding a ticket:
A passenger may choose one of three options:
The airline reimburses the cost of any unused flight ticket or used ticket where the flight taken no longer meets the passenger’s original travel plan. In this case, the airline must provide a flight back to the original departure point at the earliest opportunity.
The airline may reroute a passenger under similar conditions (class of service) to the original final destination at the earliest opportunity.
The airline will reroute the passenger under similar condtions to the intended final destination at the passenger’s leisure (subject to the availability of seats).
A very good article in the Daily Mail Online (UK) concerning how to go about making a claim in the EU, complete with sample letters can be found here.
Although airlines may often try to get out of paying and/or accommodating passengers, it pays to be aware of your rights. It can save (or make) you money in the long run.
Have you ever found yourself in the situation of being denied boarding?
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Very helpful review, with some new info for me too. Thanks!
You’re Welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it!