Compared to the airlines, passenger rights are limited. However, taking some protective steps to avoid being bumped from a flight is important. Remember, if you’re bumped from a flight, you have resources. A day use hotel from HotelsByDay gives delayed travelers a place to rest and get refreshed before continuing on their journey.

Lower Your Risks of Getting Bumped from a Flight

Understand that the airline holds most of the cards about whether you’ll get bumped. The following steps help to avoid the inconvenience and frustration of travel delays:

Book your seat assignment in advance. Don’t risk open seating. Take a seat—even a middle seat if necessary—lowers your chances of getting bumped at the airport. Having a seat assignment decreases your risk of being bumped compared to passengers without one. If you receive a boarding pass stamped “+,” you have a higher risk of being bumped from the flight.

Check in early. Believe it or not, the airline considers your check in time when considering passengers to bump from the flight. Organize your plans to arrive within the allotted time window. If the airline says arrive two hours before the flight take-off, it’s not okay to arrive an hour beforehand.

Follow the carrier’s rules. Read the fine print. Each carrier has a legal contract with passengers. If the airline says that you must check-in a minimum of 40 minutes or longer before the flight departs, follow the instructions. If you’re late, you automatically go to the top of the airline’s bump queue. Importantly, if you don’t follow the airline rules, you might not be eligible for compensation if you’re bumped. So, if the rules say you need to be at the gate by a specific time, then you must comply.

Put all family members traveling together on the same reservation. Take a moment to contact the airline carrier to request that it link the PNRs to keep your passenger records together. Most airline carriers do their best to avoid bumping a family with children, disabled, or senior passengers.

Young female passenger at the airport, using her tablet computer while waiting for her flight (color toned image)

Passenger Rights

Recognize that your airline is a commercial dictatorship. You don’t have that many rights. You’re required to comply with carrier crew instructions by federal law. It’s essential to mind the flight crew. Don’t get into an argument. Avoid altercations at the gate or in the air that may result in injuries, arrest, or diversion of the flight.

If you haven’t already boarded the flight and you’re arguing with an agent or crew member, you’re going to lose. Airlines are especially sensitive to customer compliance issues these days. A noncompliant passenger is the easiest one to boot from an overbooked flight.

FAA complaints frequently cite airline crews’ abuse of authority. It’s common for passengers to report that they were removed for a tiny disagreement. Unfortunately, federal law clearly says that if a crew member says you can’t board or you must get off the plane, that’s the bottom line. You must comply. The silver lining is there are many HotelsByDay day use hotel partners, aka transit hotels, near every major transport hub. You may be down, but you’re not out.

Remember, the airline ticket in your hand is a contract between you and the airline. The carrier agrees to transport you from one location to another. Although the contract doesn’t state that you bought a certain flight or specific seat—because the airline can change these terms—you are entitled to receive compensation when it bumps you to another flight to fulfill the contract agreement if you comply with the carrier’s rules.

A Day Use Hotel Helps With Overbooked Flights

Airlines are required to offer flight vouchers to passengers who voluntarily give up seats. If the airline denies a ticketed passenger with the right to board, it must also put the customer on the “next available” flight and/or cover costs of lodging at a hotel if necessary. A day use hotel, with early check in and late check out, comes in handy with the latter option. The key concept here is next available flight.

You may receive compensation from the airline if the airline carrier gets you to the intended destination between one to two hours (domestic flights) or one to four hours (international flights) late. In either scenario, the airline owes you twice the cost of the one-way fare. Up to a maximum of $675. If the carrier is more than two hours late (domestic flights) or four hours late (international flights), it owes you 400 percent of the one-way fare.  Up to a maximum of $1,350. If the carrier gets you to a destination within an hour of the published schedule, it isn’t required to compensate you.

Cash Payment

Passengers who voluntarily give up a seat on an overbooked flight may be owed compensation. The airline may attempt to give the passenger a flight voucher. Again, read the fine print. A voucher may include certain restrictions or have an expiration date.

You can request a cash payment. If you paid for checked bags or a premium seat, the airline must refund you for services it didn’t render.

Staying Flexible

Frequent travelers have favorite resources to use in such situations. Plan ahead, before you’re bumped from a flight. With a day use hotel from HotelsByDay, you’ve got lots of hotel options. If you need overnight accommodations, FlexBook has many flexible hotels near every major airport.

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Scott Dylan graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a B.A. in History, a Minor in Economics, and a firm belief that financial knowledge is a human right. When Scott's not writing about financial matters, he's traveling to new places, cooking strange foods and getting to know good people.