As a result of the economic crisis and the struggling airline industry, the number of flights have been reduced all over the country. Now with mergers and changes in the airline industry, the number of available flights may decrease even more. This could lead to more disruptions in travel like passengers being bumped from their overbooked flights.
In the last few years, we have seen an increase in overbooking with many passengers being involuntarily bumped from their flight. Major airlines aren’t the only ones doing this as Southwest has seen an increase in the number of passengers involuntarily bumped from their flights. From 2008 to 2009, the numbers increased from 10,600 to 13,113 for Southwest airlines alone.
Overbooking is on the rise in the airline industry as airlines are looking for ways to save money with fewer flights while making sure flights are full. Because there are always situations in which passengers don’t show up for their flights (missed connection, weather delays, etc), airlines have used overbooking as a way of protecting themselves to make sure the flights are as full as possible.
Many travelers feel that this is an unfair practice. To sell a seat which may not actually be available may be deceptive to some and can ruin many travel plans for those that are bumped. So what can passengers do to protect themselves from being bumped?
1. Know your rights - Airlines must compensate passengers up to $800 and give a written explanation if passengers are not re-booked within 2 hours. Notice that you must be re-booked and not necessarily be flying within two hours.
2. Volunteer to be bumped - Airlines may also offer vouchers to passengers who choose to give up their seat if a flight is oversold. So if you have flexibility in your travel, you can get some good deals. However the amount of the vouchers and any other perks are up to the airline.
3. Check in early - Online check in will confirm that you have a boarding pass and a seat assignment. For flights that are overbooked, the first people to get bumped are those that don’t have a seat assigned. Having a boarding pass and seat assignment won’t guarantee that you aren’t bumped but it will put you further down the list for getting bumped.
4. Don’t fly those airlines - JetBlue has a policy of not overbooking flights. Fly with them and reduce your chance of getting bumped! It still happens though but not on purpose – Does JetBlue overbook flights?
5. Book your flight for mid-morning - Mid-morning flights are not as busy as early morning flights or afternoon flights. You are less likely to be bumped on flights that aren’t full. If traveling on a busy travel day, fly early in the morning. If you get bumped, the better your chance of getting re-booked on a flight later that day as you have more options.
6. When all else fails - If you end up getting bumped anyways, be nice and polite. Along with getting re-booked, you might ask for an upgrade as well. If you don’t want to stay over or get compensation, maybe you can travel in style.
Being bumped from a flight because of overbooking is never fun. There is not much you can do once you are bumped but having a good attitude and asking questions might get you on the next flight, some compensation, or an upgrade. Hopefully, the tips above will help you minimize your chances of getting bumped on your next flight.
Airline counter photo (Flickr)
As published on Examiner.com from the Sacramento Budget Travel Examiner