Getting Bumped

Getting Bumped From a Flight

Do you know why travelers get bumped from the flights that they have booked for themselves? The main reason behind this is that airlines sell more tickets than the actual seats available on the plane.

It is known as overbooking of the flights. You will be surprised to know that there is no law for it. Airlines want the seats of their planes to be full; that is why they sell more than the available seats. So with every flight, they gamble on the number of passengers they have.

Reasons for Airlines "bumping" travelers from their pre-booked flights

It is important for passengers to understand the actual reason for the bumping. Given below are the main reasons for the occurrence of this situation.


Airlines follow this practice because they know well from their past experience that all the passengers are not able to make the flights on time. Some passengers may reach too late, or some cancel their flights at the last minute.

But when everyone arrives, then there are not enough seats available. The call goes out for volunteers willing to give up their seats for a later flight.

An airline also offers an incentive to the passengers for the inconvenience. If there are no volunteers, the airline can request the passenger to give up the seat for a later flight. It is known as "involuntary bumping."

Inclement weather or mechanical problems

Another reason can be inclement weather or mechanical problems that lead to canceling the flights. The next-departing flights may not be able to accommodate many of the stranded passengers.

After attempting to gather enough volunteers, the airline may also resort to "involuntary bumping" if they find it necessary in case of special needs or circumstances of some of their passengers.

Voluntary or Involuntary Bumping from Your Flight

When their estimate goes wrong, then the situation of bumping the travelers from the flight arrives. Airline authorities always ask their customers to voluntarily give up their seats by moving out of the plane.

If there is no one who wishes to move out of the flight, then airline authorities have to select the passengers for bumping from the flight. This procedure is known as "bumping" or "involuntary denied boarding."

Rights of the passengers who voluntarily bumped from the flight

The volunteer who does not bother waiting for the next flight to their destination gets compensation for it. The compensation may be by means of either money or a voucher good for a one-way trip.

When passengers choose to give up their seats, they have to accept the terms of the airlines as well. The deal or terms may also differ from airline to airline and are not regulated by the FAA.

Once you have accepted the deal, no changes can be made. Passengers will not get any compensation if

  • Commuter airlines serve smaller communities or link to regional hubs
  • If the airline is able to put you on another flight within the hour

In general, airlines offer free tickets or a dollar-amount voucher as compensation for a domestic or international flight. If you accept the free ticket, it may come with many restrictions and with limited seat availability.

Rights of the Passengers Who Involuntarily Bumped From the Flight

It is a disastrous situation for the person who is involuntarily bumped from the flight. It is important that you state your special circumstances for the airline's consideration.

However, airlines are reluctant to bump their best customers, the ones who paid full fare for first- and business class, or even the frequent flyer class. But the passengers with last-minute reservations or late arrivals are usually preferable first for bumping.

If you are forced to give up your seat, the FAA has set certain rules and guidelines for Airlines. They have to follow these rules, which are as follow

You are not entitled to compensation

When the airline can get you to reach your final destination within one hour of your original arrival time, then you cannot claim compensation.

You are entitled to compensation

  • Suppose the airline is able to get you to your final destination within two hours of the original time of your domestic flight or four hours of your original international flight. You are entitled to compensation equal to your one-way fare but not exceeding $200.
  • If the airline delays you more than two hours for a domestic and four hours for an international flight, you are entitled to compensation. You will get the compensation of double your one-way fare but not exceeding $400.

But when the airline makes no alternate arrangements for you, only then you can get this compensation.

In addition to the FAA's mandate, your airlines may also own policy, including other offers like access to their airport lounge, meal voucher. Further, they also offer hotel vouchers if you have to stay overnight for the next flight.

Do not hesitate to ask them if they are not freely offering these services to you. You are also protected under the airline's own "Rule 245," which is a section of their contract dealing.

Under this, you can be benefitted from rebooking your trip and the compensation to be made.

What you need to know when you are Bumped

  • If you are bumped, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, and have checked baggage, your bags will not be removed from the plane but continue to your destination, pending your arrival later.
  • Keep all the necessary receipts for expenses caused by being involuntarily bumped. Regardless of their rules, you have the option of an appeal to the airline's customer service department, backing up your claim with your receipts (keep the original, give them copies)
  • If you feel you will be delayed for a long time, consider booking a hotel room and/or a rental car before everyone else does—some airlines issue vouchers for hotel rooms and ground transportation.
  • You may also be entitled to meal vouchers, telephone charges, etc. Pay attention to any future reservations with airlines, hotels, or rental cars that will be affected by your delay and contact them.

How to Avoid Being Bumped From Your Flight or Make the Most of It

It is really disappointing when you get bumped from your flight. You may have connecting flights too, so it can create a lot of trouble for you and your family.

There are some ways with which you can reduce the chances of ever getting bumped from a flight.

Reserve a seat

You are less likely to be bumped involuntarily and have more power to negotiate for voluntary bumps if you have an assigned seat. Reserve your seat when booking your ticket.

A message saying your seats will be assigned at the airport or are "under airport control" usually means the flight is overbooked. At that point, you can choose another flight or airline.

Check-In as soon as you can

If you want to avoid getting bumped, then you can check in from home via the Internet up to 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure time. Also, you need to be at the airport at least 90 minutes before your flight.

When you want to avoid getting stuck at the security line while your airline gives away your seat, you have to check in early. Only then you get the priority over the passengers who have checked in later.

Obtain a guarantee or an alternative

If you lose your seat on one flight, there are more chances that you have a long wait if other flights are also crowded. You can ask the gate representative to get you a confirmed seat on another flight with that airline.

Fly early in the day

Flights are likely to get crowded as the day passes, and there are more chances of flight cancellation. Airlines try to find another flight for those who have missed their flight.

So the flights that depart later are more likely to be overbooked because they also have to accommodate all of the passengers who are bumped earlier. If you book an early flight for you, there are fewer chances for you to be a part of bumping.

Do not use standby or open tickets

Never use standby or open tickets for travel during peak travel times. On weekdays 7-10 am and 4-7 pm, particularly Monday morning and Friday afternoon and early evenings on Sundays or at the end of Holidays.

Book a nonstop flight

If possible, try to book a nonstop flight for yourself. It is because each time you land and take off, you increase your chances of getting bumped.

Avoid booking the last flight of the day

If possible, you can avoid booking the last flight of the day, particularly on peak flight days when many flights end up overbooked.

Fewer volunteers are willing to be bumped from the last flight of the day since many airlines' policies do not include hotel compensation, making a stay at the airport until the next morning a reality.

Use a paper ticket over an electronic ticket

You may consider using a paper ticket over an electronic ticket if you think that you might be rebooked on another flight. If you need to transfer to another airline to continue your trip, a paper ticket can save you time.

Most airlines are not yet able to transfer passengers flying on e-tickets without first taking the time to switch them to a paper ticket.

Avoid buying a basic economy ticket

Flying first class, full fare, or business class will greatly reduce the chances of being treated like sup-par travelers. Or join an airline's elite member club or frequent flyer program.

Board when your row is called

If you do not board at the time when your row is called, then it is assumed that your seat is available for a standby passenger. Moreover, if you do not show up at the gate 15 minutes prior to departure, the airline can involuntarily bump you and not owe you anything.

Ask to Up the Offer

FAA rules require the airlines to make a good-faith effort--meaning if no volunteers have yet come forward, it should try to sweeten the deal. The airline's desire for an on-time departure does not excuse them from making this effort.

Are you planning for the Bump?

If you are planning to opt for the bump, then your negotiating skills also play a vital role. There are lots of people who know how to play the bumping game these days.

There are chances; more people are also willing to give up their seats, which makes it harder for you to negotiate a great deal. Airlines are much more likely to offer vouchers for future flights with set limits between $200 and $300.

If you are offered a so-called "unlimited" round trip, it usually comes with substantial restrictions. The downside is that available flights to free ticket users are very limited.

  • Travel light

If you intend to be rebooked on a later flight, do not bring your luggage to be checked in but restrict yourself to carry-on luggage.

  • Offer your Services

When you arrive early at the gate, you will be among the first to offer your volunteer services when the gate agent shows up. Thereafter, avoid checking back in, but rather park yourself nearby to be ready when your name is called.

  • Consider the Deal

You have only a short period of time for negotiating a deal and deciding on whether to accept it or not. If you are delayed for more than two hours, ask for a meal voucher and access to an airport lounge.

On the other side, for an overnight delay, you can request a hotel room and a meal voucher. In addition, you can also ask for a transportation voucher to and from the hotel.

When Your Chances of Getting Bumped Increase

You can minimize the chances of getting bumped from the flights from the above discussion. But it is also important to be well aware of the facts that increase your chances of getting bumped.

If you do the following practice, then it may lead to bumping you from your flight and create inconvenience for you.

1. When you choose a Popular Flight

When you choose a popular flight, there are more chances that it is overbooked. Further, it increases the chances of getting bumped.

2. Choosing a Holiday Flight

Overbooking occurs more likely with flights before and after major holidays. So, try to avoid traveling during those times.

3. Check the Weather

Bad weather can cause flight cancellations and results in a cascade of overbooked flights across the country. Therefore, airlines try to accommodate stranded passengers on the flights.

In this situation, your chances of losing your seat also increase considerably. On the other side, your chances of getting another flight also decrease.

Important Tips for the Voluntarily Bumped

Involuntary bumping you may find that the flight is overbooked, and you have to put your name on the bumping list. If you voluntarily bumped from the airline, they will also offer some benefits to you.

If you wish to get the maximum benefit of it, then you must know some tips.

1. Update the reward

If you volunteer your seat, then pay attention to make sure that you get the top reward as well.

2. Get offers in writing

Whatever offers you are getting, you can ask the agent to give it in writing. You can also ask them to sign it and add their employee number.

3. Request more

You can also ask the agent to rebook your flight for an upgrade. If upgrades are not available at flight time, you will get the benefit of credit and compensation as well.

4. Stay at a Hotel

If you have to stay overnight for the rebooked flight, the airline will issue a hotel voucher, which is accepted at certain airport hotels. If the location of the hotel requires transportation, you can also ask for a transportation voucher.

5. Use the Club Lounge

If you have to wait over two hours to get to the rebooked flight, ask to use the airline's club lounge. Here you can also get the benefit of free drinks, snacks, television, and computer workstations.

Getting Bumped From an International Flight

If you are denied boarding on an international flight, the airline will reroute you. In this case, you will not get any extra compensation.

Involuntary rerouting can involve upgrading your class of service at no extra charge. Moreover, you can also get the benefit of rebooking your flight with a different airline to the same destination with a higher class of service.

If the rerouting involves an overnight stay, the airline will provide accommodation in hotel and meal vouchers. However, you will not receive any free tickets.

When you have purchased a first-class ticket and you are rerouted with a lower class, in that case, the airline is to refund the difference amount. If you want to get to your destination without getting bumped, the safest way is to get a first-class ticket for yourself.


If you want to minimize the chances of getting bumped, then you can try to pick the early morning flights. In case you are bumped from the flight, then also you have to be pre-prepared for it.

You must be well aware of all the rights that you have over your bumping for your sufferings and inconvenience.