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Negotiating travel perks when flights are overbooked

Airplane seats
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 06:42:11-04

BALTIMORE — Travelers are increasingly facing delays and cancellations at the airport. And there are more travelers than there are seats, which is why passengers should understand their rights and how they can use oversold flights to their advantage.

“Airlines are overburdened with passengers and the result is overbooked flights, delays, cancellations, and overall chaos,” said Willis Orlando, senior flight expert with Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Adding flights may seem like the solution, but Orlando said it’s not that easy.

“The biggest thing is a few months ago, airlines did. They actually beefed up their summer schedules, they got tons of planes in the sky and got really excited and a few things kind of all came together to make them realize we can’t handle this,” Orlando said.

Airlines currently don’t have enough pilots or flight crews, pilots who were off during the pandemic need training hours, and there are labor disputes.

These are things that are out of travelers control, but they do have some power, like when the ticket counter asks for volunteers to take a different flight.

“Be the eager beaver. Get to the front of line but declare you would like to be given a voucher the same amount as whoever the last volunteer is, because as you get closer to the flight, the airlines are much more likely to sweeten the pot and offer more money because they don’t want to give you $775 to get off a one-way domestic flight,” said Orlando.

That’s the compensation limit customers are entitled to if they’re involuntarily bumped, and the flight arrival time is delayed 1-2 hours from the original flight.

If it’s less than an hour delay, airlines aren’t required to give passengers anything. And if it’s over 2 hours, the limit goes up to $1,550.

“The fact of the matter is it’s extremely rare to be involuntarily bumped and that’s because the airlines make those announcements. They try very, very hard to incentivize folks to take the bribe, take the voucher, take the offer,” said Orlando.

Passengers can also ask airline agents to sweeten the deal.

“Ask for other things that they might be able to give you – lounge access, maybe an upgrade on your next flight,” added Orlando. “If you’re staying overnight, make that part of the deal. Either request more compensation or request that they put you up in a hotel. Same with meals. Request meal vouchers. Very oftentimes, they have to give you a meal voucher.”

And if you’re flight is outright canceled, you are automatically entitled to a refund.

This can also be the case if your flight is significantly delayed or there’s a schedule change, however, the Department of Transportation hasn’t yet defined these terms, so it’s up to the airline.

And if you happen to get stuck in a long line at the ticket counter, try other ways of contacting the airline by phone, online chat, or message them on social media.

You can even try calling and airline’s international numbers on their contact page for a shorter wait.

There are certain scenarios where passengers who are involuntarily bumped aren’t entitled to compensation like if the airline switches to a smaller plane.

Click here to see the DOT’s guidelines on passengers’ rights and compensation amounts for cancellations, delays, bumping and oversales.

To file a complaint with the DOT against an airline, click here.