What does getting bumped mean?
– “Getting bumped” is the common term most people use when they are denied boarding on a flight because there is no room for them on the plane even though they have a reservation. The Airlines often “overbook” and sell more than 100% of a particular flight’s seats because they know that some of the people with reservations won’t show up for the flight. Sometimes everyone does show up and this means that there won’t be enough seats to go around and someone must be left behind. Those left behind have been “bumped” from the flight and will have to take a later flight.
What is the difference between voluntary and involuntary bumping?
– You may think this is too obvious, but with voluntary bumping you choose to give up your seat on your flight for some form of compensation (usually travel vouchers or cash) and with involuntary bumping you are forced to give up your seat. However, there is another very important difference between these two types of bumping. Those that are involuntarily bumped are protected under specific Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that spell out the minimum amount of compensation and other protection for passengers that are involuntarily bumped. If you volunteer to be bumped, you are simply agreeing to take a deal from the Airline. This “deal” is not regulated and will depend on upon the Airline’s gate attendants and your negotiation skills.
What happens to my checked luggage if I get bumped?
– It may fly ahead on the plane you were supposed to take. Even though they’ll probably promise to keep it for you at your destination airport until you catch up, you might want to consider keeping your luggage with you, especially if you are unsure on when you will be making it to that destination. You will at least want to confirm that they are making arrangements to protect your luggage at your destination. If it’s already loaded on the plane, but the plane hasn’t left, see if the luggage can be taken off the plane and returned to you. Although, you might not want to get stuck watching your luggage while you wait for another flight, allowing your luggage to travel ahead can increase the chance it will disappear. You may also need the items in your luggage if you can’t make it on another flight and you get stuck with an unexpected overnight stay.
How can I avoid being bumped?
– Avoid using an Airline that oversells too much and ends up bumping many of its passengers.
– Keep up with the news and see if your Airline is facing any upcoming labor negotiations. If they are in negotiation near the time you are planning your trip, you might want to use another Airline in case yours has a work stoppage or slowdown.
– Check the weather conditions that are common along your route to see if you can plan your trip to avoid periods when foul weather causes delayed and cancelled flights. Delayed and especially cancelled flights will fill up other flights and that can cause the need for an Airline to bump passengers.
– Avoid peak travel times.
– Fly nonstop or with the least amount of connections possible. Each time you land and take off, you increase your chances to get bumped. If you do have to include connecting flights, try to make them at the least congested airports. Limiting your stops will also help you to avoid the possibility of a misconnection.
– Consider flying earlier in the day so you’ll have more options remaining through out the day to complete your trip if you do get bumped.
– Avoid booking the last flight of the day. This is especially important on peak flight days when many flights end up being overbooked. Often, fewer people are willing to volunteer to be bumped from the last flight of the day since they will have to end up waiting until the next morning to leave. Since this increases your chances of being involuntarily bumped, plan on arriving to the last flight of the day even earlier than you would for other flights. Also, note that many Airlines have a policy against paying for a hotel stay at your flight’s origin if you are delayed overnight.
– Don’t buy standby or open tickets to travel during peak travel times.
– If you fear you may get bumped, consider using a paper ticket over an electronic ticket. 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.
– Try to get a seat assignment when you book your flight.
– Confirm your reservation and verify that the Airline has all the correct information.
– It’s not the cheapest way to go, but flying first class, full fare or business class will get you a better shot at seats, especially among the last to arrive.
– Join an Airline’s elite member club or frequent flyer programs.
– Arrive early and confirm your seat assignment since the latest to get there will be the most likely to be left out.
– Ask about the flight when you check your luggage. If the flight is overbooked, go directly to the gate. Just having checked in, won’t always guarantee you a seat.
– Board when your row is called. If you delay, they might think your seat is open and board a standby passenger in your place.
What should I know before I volunteer to be bumped?
– If you do volunteer, you will be stuck with whatever deal you accept. If something is not part of the deal, don’t expect to get it even if it turns out you need it later. You’ll want to know all the details of the Airline’s offer before you agree to accept their deal.
– Is a seat on their next flight guaranteed and confirmed and when is that flight scheduled? Remember, if you agree to fly on standby you could end up getting stranded.
– What will happen if it turns out you won’t be able to find me a seat on the next flight or that flight is delayed or cancelled?
– What will happen to my checked luggage?
– What type of consideration is available if I volunteer to be bumped?
– What limitations are there on the free ticket or travel voucher? When will they expire, are there blackout dates, can they be used for international travel and can I make a regular reservation for their use? Are there minimum or maximum stay requirements? Are the vouchers good for only a certain class of tickets?
– What happens if you can’t get me on a flight today and I have to spend the night? Will you pay for a hotel stay and transportation to that hotel?
– Is a meal voucher, long distance phone credit or hotel voucher available for my delay? What are the restrictions on those items?
– Are there any other premiums available such as entrance into their airport club lounge while I wait or headset vouchers?
What should I do if I am involuntarily bumped?
– If you are involuntarily bumped, work with the Airline’s counter personnel to book you on another flight. Being nice and working with the agent will often bring much better results than losing your temper. You can let them know you are upset without turning your anger toward them. Know that there are written guidelines, some of which are required by the Federal Aviation Administration, that protect passengers who have been involuntarily denied boarding.
– Ask to be protected under the Airline’s own written rules in the ticket’s conditions or contract of carriage for dealing with bumped passengers so you are given all the consideration you are legally due. This section of the contract is often called “Rule 245″, but no matter what it is called, they will have a section that specifically spells out what action they must take to help you continue your trip and what compensation you are due, if any. The U.S. Department of Transportation mandates that a copy of this contract be available to passengers at the Airline’s ticket counter. Many Airlines also provide this information on their web sites so you might print it off and take it with you in case you need it.
– Make sure the Airline has first asked for volunteers to be bumped. They are required to at least ask for volunteers. Although, there are no specific guidelines for the offers they make, they should offer compensation of some form to encourage volunteers before they deny you a seat.
– See if others in your party belong to any premium clubs that will help to get you special consideration.
– If you checked luggage to go on the flight from which you were bumped, take measures to protect that luggage.
– See if they can guarantee you a seat on another flight.
– See if your Airline is willing to find you a seat on another Airline. Although, their contract may allow them some time to first find you a flight on their own Airline, most state that when they fail to do so, they will try to find you a seat with another Airline. Know that many Airlines limit your potential choices of other Airlines only to certain Airlines that have existing agreements with your Airline. Your option probably won’t be to find any other flight at the airport that works. It will be to find another flight from a list of specific Airlines.
– The Airline’s contract of carriage may state that, if you so choose, you are entitled to an involuntary refund for any unused portion of your ticket, even if you purchased a nonrefundable ticket.
– This contract also specifies what, if any, other compensation you are due because you were involuntarily denied boarding of the flight. Some of this compensation is regulated under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. The compensation due will usually vary depending on the reason you were denied boarding and how time much you were delayed. The compensation guidelines for U.S. domestic flights also vary from flights with an international portion. You may be entitled to vouchers for meals, overnight stays, long distance phone calls, and/or ground transportation in addition to travel vouchers or monetary rewards.
– Keep all receipts for expenses caused by being involuntarily bumped. No matter what their rules say, you can always make an appeal to the Airline’s customer service department and you’ll want the receipts to back you up. Send your Airline copies of the receipts and keep the original receipts.
– If it looks like lots of people are going to be stuck for a long time, consider booking a hotel room and/or a rental car before everyone else grabs them all. Under certain situations, some Airlines provide vouchers for hotel rooms and ground transportation so you should check with them before making your own arrangements. You may also be entitled to meal vouchers and other perks.
– Update any future reservations with Airlines, hotels or rental cars that will be effected by your delay.
If I get involuntarily bumped, will I be compensated no matter what?
– No, you may think that being bumped will automatically get you money, complimentary meals and a free hotel stay, but that’s not always true. There are several situations where Airlines are not required to compensate you in any manner if you are bumped, even if you are involuntarily bumped. In some situations, you might even be forfeiting your right to a refund of your unused ticket. However, in many situations, if you did everything right, the Federal Aviation Administration does require that the Airline provide some compensation to passengers that have been involuntarily denied boarding.
What are some of the reasons I might be denied compensation if I am involuntarily bumped?
There are several situations where Airlines are not required to compensate you in any manner if you are bumped, even if you are involuntarily bumped. In some situations, you might even be forfeiting your right to a refund of your unused ticket. You may be denied compensation if:
– You acquired the ticket in violation of the Airline’s rules, regulations or any tariffs or applicable law.
– You failed to fully comply with the Airline’s ticketing requirements. There are many requirements that can apply, such as, completing the purchase within a specified time after making your reservation.
– You failed to fully comply with the Airline’s reconfirmation requirements.
– You don’t have a confirmed reservation. You should check for an “OK” in the status box of your ticket so even if the Airline can’t find your reservation in the computer you’ll still be o.k.
– You cancelled your reservation or changed your itinerary along the way and failed to notify the Airline, which resulted in automatic cancellation of your entire itinerary.
– Most Airlines’ conditions of carriage state that with many of their tickets, failure to arrive at the check-in counter, the flight’s departure gate or your assigned seat a prescribed amount of time before the flight’s scheduled departure time may cause you to forfeit any refund or other compensation due for the unused ticket, even if you have an advance seat assignment and advance boarding pass.
– You are refused boarding because you are unable to present proper government issued photo I.D., are unruly, drunk, fail to cooperate with security or exhibit any other behavior or take any action covered under the Airline’s “right to refuse carriage” policy.
– The flight was canceled. Guidelines for cancelled flights are handled under a separate section of the Airlines’ contract of carriage.
– A smaller aircraft was substituted for safety or operation reasons.
– The Airline finds you a seat on another flight that is scheduled to arrive at your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your originally scheduled arrival time.
– You are put in another section of the aircraft for no additional charge.
– The flight involves an airplane with 60 or fewer seats.
– The flight is on a chartered aircraft.
– The flight from which you are bumped is an inbound international flight to the United States or the whole flight takes place outside the United States. Flights outside the United States are not required to meet F.A.A. requirements. You should check with your Airline for its guidelines concerning involuntary bumping on non-U.S. flights.
What types of compensation will I receive if I did everything right and still get involuntarily bumped?
The Federal Aviation Administration does have minimum requirements for compensation if you are involuntarily bumped, but these minimums may not cover all of the costs of your delay. Many other items, such as, hotel stays, meals, and ground transportation may be left up to the Airline’s condition of carriage and your negotiation skills. Many Airlines provide this information on their web sites so you might consider printing it off and taking it with you. The U.S. Department of Transportation also mandates that a copy of this contract must be made available to passengers at the Airline’s ticket counter. Know that compensation for delay will vary depending on the amount of time you were delayed, the type of flight you take and possibly even the class of ticket you hold.
– If the Airline finds you a seat on another flight that is scheduled to arrive at your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your originally scheduled arrival time, you are not entitled to any compensation.
– If the Airline finds you a seat on another flight that is scheduled to arrive at your final destination (including later connections) between one and two hours after your originally scheduled arrival time on domestic flights or between one and four hours on international flights, you are entitled to an amount equal to the fare you paid, (for that portion of the trip) with a maximum amount of $200.
– If the Airline finds you a seat on another flight that is scheduled to arrive at your final destination (including later connections) more than two hours late domestically or four hours late internationally, you are entitled to twice the amount of the fare you paid, (for that portion of the trip) with a maximum amount of $400.
– If the Airline fails to make any substitute travel arrangements for you, you are entitled to twice the amount of the fare you paid, (for that portion of the trip) with a maximum amount of $400.
– In addition to the above compensation, you are always entitled to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight to continue your trip or request an “involuntary refund” for the portion of the ticket from which you were involuntarily denied boarding. The denied boarding compensation is in addition to the value of the ticket and is a payment for your inconvenience. The denied boarding compensation is not a refund for the ticket.
– It’s always a good idea to pay for your plane ticket with a credit card. It usually makes it easier and quicker for you to get your refund and, if the Airline gives you hard time about refunding your unused ticket, you can ask your credit card company about the possibility of a charge back.
– The Federal Aviation Administration requires Airlines to issue you a check or paid travel vouchers immediately.
Can I get more compensation than the minimum amount required by the Federal Aviation Administration?
– Maybe. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be entitled to additional compensation. Some Airlines do provide other types of compensation to cover some of your costs for being delayed. The Airline’s own written rules in the ticket’s conditions or contract of carriage specifically spell out what action they must take to help you continue your trip and what minimum compensation you are due, if any. Items, such as, hotel stays, meals, long distance phone calls, ground transportation and any other perks are left up to the Airline’s condition of carriage and your negotiation skills. Also, remember that it never hurts to ask for more than the minimum amounts listed in their written rules. Even though, your Airline may not be required to give you all the compensation you feel you are due, they still may provide you with something extra to keep you a happy customer.
What options do I have if I feel the Airline’s counter personnel are not offering me enough compensation for being involuntarily bumped?
– First, look at their conditions of carriage to make sure they are at least giving you all the compensation you are due under their own rules and don’t forget it never hurts to ask for more.
– If you feel the amount of compensation the Airline is offering doesn’t fully cover your losses for being bumpe, you can try to negotiate a higher settlement directly with their customer service department. However, first make sure you are clear on the Airline’s procedures for negotiating additional compensation. Often, you have at most 30 days from the date on the check to decide if you want to accept the amount of the check. Once the deadline expires, you cash the check or use their travel voucher; you will probably lose the right to later demand any further compensation from the Airline.
– You always have the right to decline the Airline’s offer and take them to court and sue for more compensation. However, unless you have verifiable, definite costs that could be fully documented and were solely, directly and unavoidably caused by being involuntarily bumped, you probably won’t have much of a chance in court. Courts have traditionally upheld the amount of compensation required under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines and any additional compensation stated in the Airline’s contract of carriage so suing can be risky and costly, particularly if your only complaint is inconvenience or lost time. If you do have a special situation where you could show that being involuntarily bumped will cause you a financial loss far above their offer and you think this would make a good court case you should notify the Airline of your situation when you are denied boarding. Your situation might encourage them to increase their offer to other passengers so someone else will volunteer to be bumped in your place.