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Your Connecting Flight Is Overbooked. What Happens Next?


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Your connecting flight is overbooked…

You aren’t allowed to board connecting flight. Your travel documents are in order, you have a visa, and you have a boarding pass. But still you are denied boarding. It could happen to any of us. Overbooking of flights is legal, and happens quite often. Any of your flights can be overbooked — be it a single, direct flight or a connecting flight. The good news is, that you are protected by law.

In Europe (and not only) there are laws protecting you against that.

In some cases, you can get compensation for denied boarding too.

Okay, but how do flights get overbooked?

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

Seats on an Emirates flight
Seats on an Emirates airplane

1. Why Do Airlines Overbook Flights?

Airlines often sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane.

It’s a common practice. Because there are always people who don’t show up for their flight, and then the plane departs with empty seats. So, airlines do this in order to earn more money. They sell more tickets hoping that the same percentage of people won’t show up this time too.

Sometimes, however, more people than normally show up. And that means that someone gets bumped from a flight. Often against their will.

2. Who Gets Bumped on Overbooked Flight?

When possible, these are volunteers.

In other words, people willing to take a later flight. Very often that means also getting some other perks from the airline. It can be anything from cash compensation to flight coupons with the same or other airline.

3. Voluntary vs Involuntary Denied Boarding

It’s not the same thing.

Before we go into details about denied boarding compensation and your rights as a passenger, let’s discuss the difference between the two types of denied boarding. To know if you are entitled to compensation or not, you have to know and understand the difference between voluntary and involuntary denied boarding. Because you can get bumped flight compensation only if you are denied boarding involuntarily. 

Generally speaking, there are two types of denied boarding:

  • Voluntary denied boarding;
  • Involuntary denied boarding.

The main difference between these two is how you get refused the right to board your plane. You can either be a volunteer, who agrees to take another flight (or not to fly at all), or you are bumped from the plane involuntarily. 

You can get compensation only if you are denied boarding involuntary.

If you agree to volunteer, you won’t get this compensation.

3.1 Voluntary Denied Boarding

When a flight is overbooked, the airline staff looks for volunteers.

They look for people willing to give up their seats and travel to their destination later, on another flight. The ticket for the replacement flight is always provided free of charge. Mostly they also provide meal coupons, and, if the flight departs only on the next day, a free hotel stay. The volunteer is usually offered compensation, too. But it’s not as big as the UK / EU flight compensation.

By becoming a volunteer and agreeing to compensation offered by an airline, you won’t be entitled to the UK / EU flight compensations from airline. If the compensation offered by the airline for you as a volunteer is only 100 – 200 euro, but it’s a long-haul flight, you might be giving up a chance of getting extra 400 – 500 euro (the official EU denied boarding compensation for 3500+ km flights is 600 euro). Keep this in mind. 

You don’t have to agree to this.

3.2 Involuntary Denied Boarding

Sometimes, you aren’t given a choice.

Sometimes, you get bumped from the plane involuntarily, without consent. This is when you do not agree to be denied boarding, but you are still not let on the plane. Unlike it is with voluntary denied boarding, in case of involuntary denied boarding, you are entitled to compensation from the airline.

You are entitled to 250, 400 or 600 euros for one flight.

The amount depends on the distance of your flight.

More on that below.

People waiting for their flight
People waiting for their flight at the gate

4. Overbooked Flight Compensation

If your flight is overbooked, you might be entitled to compensation.

It doesn’t matter if you have only one flight, or if it’s your connecting flight that’s overbooked. Thanks to the European regulations, you are protected in both cases. Similar rules are also in other parts of the world. If you have been denied boarding involuntarily, you are entitled to airline overbooking compensation.

In the EU / UK, you are entitled to up to 600 euros.

Here’s how much you can claim (mostly):

  • 250 EUR – if the flight distance is less than 1500 km;
  • 400 EUR – if the flight distance is between 1500 and 3500 km;
  • 600 EUR – if the flight distance is more than 3500 km.

You don’t need travel insurance for this.

This works with all airlines, including non-European airlines like Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Delta, etc. Here are all scenarios when EU and UK laws apply.

EU/UK to EU/UKEU/UK to Other countriesOther countries to EU/UK
EU airlines+++
UK airlines+++
Other airlines++

When it comes to air passenger rights, unless otherwise stated, we talk about air passenger rights in the EU, EEA and UK. When we say Europe or European, we mean EU, EEA or UK. This is done for the simplicity, since the according laws in these countries are about the same.

5. Right to Care 

If your flight is overbooked, you have a right to care.

It doesn’t matter, if it is involuntary or voluntary denied boarding. You have to wait at the airport, so you have a right to receive care. This means that you can receive certain services from the airline, free of charge.

This is what you can get:

  • If you have to wait 3 or more hours, you are entitled to a free meal and internet access or 2 calls. If it is not offered, ask your airline.
  • If you have to wait all night or even longer, you are entitled to both food and a free hotel stay + transportation to the hotel and back to the airport. For this you will have to leave the airport, and you may need a visa for transit. Be prepared for that!

This, as well, applies both to European and non-European airlines.

6. What Happens If a Flight Is Overbooked and No One Volunteers?

What happens when a flight is overbooked?

Here’s how it usually works out. 

  1. First of all, was it voluntary or involuntary denied boarding? So, you know, whether to apply for compensation later or not.
  2. Either way, you have a right to receive care from the airline. Also you have to get a new ticket to your destination. It has to be provided to your for free. 
  3. If you aren’t informed about what to do next (most probably you will be), contact the airline to inform it about your situation. Ask where in the airport can you get a new ticket, and when the next flight is going to depart. You don’t have to travel with the same airline. If you have to get to your destination ASAP, ask for the next available flight. It doesn’t matter what airline operates it. 
  4. If you don’t want to call the airline (due to high roaming fees), ask staff at the airport information counter what should you do in this situations, and where should you ask for assistance.
  5. If you have to wait at the airport for more than 3 hours, ask for a meal coupon. Especially if it’s a European airline that you are flying with.
  6. If your new flight departs only on the next day, as for a free hotel stay, and a free transfer to the hotel, and back to the airport. There are a lot of situations, when you have a right to this (5 and 6).
  7. Be back at the airport in time for your next flight. 
  8. If it was involuntary denied boarding, make a claim as soon as you get back home from your trip. To get compensation for overbooked flight. The sooner you do it, the higher chances of successful outcome.

All of this applies both to single flights and connecting flights.

Flight delay? Cancellation? Denied boarding? File a claim online.

Was your flight overbooked? Were you denied boarding? Did you accept the airline’s offer to travel later (voluntary denied boarding)? Or were you denied boarding involuntarily? If it was involuntary, you are entitled to compensation. Make a claim and get compensation of up to 600 euro!

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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Connecting Flights Guide

Your go-to guide to air travel rules and regulations. Connecting flights, self transfer, onward tickets and more – we want you to understand air travel better

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