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What to Do if Your Flight Is Overbooked?


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What to do if your flight is overbooked?

You’ve arrived at the airport ready to take your flight, but you’re informed that your flight is overbooked. Being overbooked means that there are more passengers scheduled to fly than there are available seats. Overbooking is a common practice by airlines, and it can cause a lot of frustration for travelers. Don’t panic! In this guide, we’ll give you a step-by-step on what to do if you are denied boarding due to flight overbooking.

Did you miss a connecting flight? File a compensation claim online.

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What to Do if Your Flight Is Overbooked?

What to do if your flight is overbooked?

Dealing with an overbooked flight can be frustrating. However, worry not! Here’s a concise step-by-step guide on how to handle such a situation with ease:

Step 1: Know Your Rights

Before you do anything, it’s important to know your rights.

According to the European regulations, if your flight is overbooked and you are denied boarding, you are entitled to:

  • New flight to your destination or a full refund;
  • Care from the airline (i.e., you have a right to care);
  • If it was an involuntary boarding denial, you are entitled to denied boarding compensation of up to €600 per passenger. 

If you’re late getting to the airport and miss your flight, you may not be entitled to European flight compensation. However, if you arrive at the airport on time, and your flight is overbooked and you are denied boarding involuntarily, the airline must give you compensation.

What flights are covered?

  • If it’s a European airline, the rules apply to all flights departing or arriving in Europe. That, basically, means all flights operated by European airlines.
  • If it’s a non-European airline, the rules apply only to flights departing from Europe.

Step 2: Know the Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Denied Boarding

There are two primary types of denied boarding: voluntary and involuntary.

Voluntary denied boarding occurs when a passenger willingly agrees to give up their seat in exchange for an alternative flight and additional benefits, such as flight vouchers or instant cash compensation.

If there aren’t enough passengers who volunteer, the airline will proceed with involuntary denied boarding, where some passengers are denied boarding against their will.

The key distinction between these two categories lies in the availability of compensation. In the event of involuntary boarding denial, you may be eligible for compensation. But if you give up your seat and opt to travel at a later time (voluntary denied boarding), you are not entitled to UK/EU flight compensation from your airline.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to agree to give up your seat.

Step 3: Know That You Have a Right to Care

What to do if your flight is overbooked, and you are stuck at the airport? Worry not – if you have been denied boarding, you have a right to care.

It doesn’t matter if you have been denied boarding voluntarily or not, you have the right to request specific services from the airline, which should be provided to you free of charge.

If you have to wait at the airport until your replacement flight departs you have a right to:

  • Free food and drinks in a reasonable relation to the waiting time (starting from 3 hour-long wait);
  • Free hotel accommodation if a stay of one or more nights is necessary;
  • Free airport transfer to hotel and back;
  • Plus, two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails. So you can get in touch with your family, relatives, or to inform someone about this delay and resulting changes in your travel plans (starting from 3 hour-long wait).

Step 4: Be Aware of Your Options

If the airline cannot find enough volunteers and you’re involuntarily denied boarding, they are obligated to provide you with alternative travel arrangements. This could involve rebooking you on the next available flight or with another airline. If you don’t wish to travel anymore, request a full refund.

You can choose either – a new flight or a refund.

If you are denied boarding voluntarily, you have the right to a new flight, too. It could be with the same or another airline. If you have missed connecting flight because of that, you may have a right to a new flight.

Step 5: Get a Free Hotel Stay

What to do if your flight is overbooked, but your new flight is only on the next day? Rest assured, you won’t be stranded at the airport.

If your new flight is only on the next day, request a hotel voucher. You are entitled to a free hotel stay and free meals regardless of boarding denial type (voluntary or involuntary).

If you have to leave the airport to go to your hotel, ask for transportation reimbursement or free airport transfer. You are entitled to it, too.

Step 6: Exercise Patience

Dealing with an overbooked flight can be time-consuming, so remain patient and cooperative with the airline staff. Remember that they are doing their utmost to accommodate everyone affected by the situation.

Step 7: Escalate if Necessary

If you believe that the airline is mishandling the situation or infringing upon your rights as a passenger, you have the option to escalate the matter to a higher authority within the airline or file a complaint with the relevant aviation regulatory body. In many countries these are called “national enforcement bodies”.

There are national enforcement bodies in all the EU Member states.

Step 8: Claim Denied Boarding Compensation

If you have been denied boarding involuntarily, you have the right to EU/UK flight compensation from the airline.

You can file a compensation claim online. It’s a straightforward process.


File a Claim Online

Alternatively, you can make a compensation claim yourself by contacting the airline. However, be prepared for a potentially complex and time-consuming process. Keep in mind that the claims process can be difficult, involving various regulations and legal aspects.

Read more: What to Do if Your Flight Is Delayed?

If you have any further questions on what to do if your flight is overbooked, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

Featured photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

About the author:

Co-founder and Editor at Connecting Flights Guide

Una is an organized globetrotter and foodie who’s been living a digital nomad lifestyle since 2013. She always starts her day early with a good book before diving into work. Apart from traveling and aviation, her other passions include gym, hiking and cycling. Una is also a strong proponent of AI technology. She firmly believes in its potential to simplify life and has often advocated for its wider adoption in our day-to-day activities. Her favorite airlines are Qatar Airways, Emirates, and KLM.


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This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.

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