Overbooking is a nasty word, but it is often a policy that airlines operate by. Why? Because some people show up late while others do not show up at all – and then these seats go empty when the flight takes off. For the most part, when this happens, others who have been booked on the same flight get seats and everyone is happy.
It is a regular occurrence that affects passengers who have been sold a seat that does not actually exist on the flight. If all passengers show up, someone is going to get bumped. If you run on a tight schedule and have places to be (or just hate waiting around the airport), then make sure it is not you. How do you do this? There are many ways and planning ahead is always a good idea.
Get to the airport early. Always shoot to get to the airport at least an hour before your flight (or arrive at least two hours early for an international flight). You never know what might happen to delay you, like a traffic accident or long security line. If you find yourself with a lot of extra time, use it to read a book or grab something to eat. It is better than getting there late and having to wait hours until a free seat opens up for you.
Check in online. While you are not technically at the gate, it is still a placeholder for you saying you are there. You have less of a chance of getting kicked off a flight you checked in many hours ahead of time for, plus you do not have to stop at the kiosk to print out your boarding pass, because you can do it at home.
Fly mid-week. Tuesday and Wednesday are the least busy days to fly, so while your plane may be crowded, it is unlikely it will be completely full or overbooked. Saturday is also a lower-fly day for travelers, so that is another option to go with.
Avoid mid-day flights. The later in the day you fly, the more problems can arise with technical malfunctions, weather, delays from previous flights and more. Mid-day is also when most people want to fly, because getting up in the middle of the night to catch an early morning flight is not very attractive to most.
Book on an airline that does not oversell seats. Not all airlines try to sell more tickets than they have seats. Companies like JetBlue never overbook flights, so if you get to the airport on time, you are guaranteed your seat, unless there is something preventing the plane from taking off, in which case you and all the other passengers will be stuck waiting together.
If you do get bumped, even after all your preparation, you cannot blame yourself. Ask to be put on the next flight and to get compensated for your inconvenience. As long as the reason is the fault of the airline (not weather-related), you can cash in on the opportunity to get free travel. For flights arriving less than two hours after your original flight, you should be rewarded at least the cost of your one-way ticket, up to $650. For flights arriving more than two hours after your original flight, airlines are required to compensate you twice the cost of your one-way ticket, up to $1,300.
You may also be entitled to a free hotel room, food vouchers and transportation if you have to wait a long time for your next flight. You are not expected to hang out at the airport all night if your flight does not take off until the next day. If the desk agent does not offer, ask nicely for things you may require until you board.
About the Author
Shereen Rayle is author of the blog Shereen Travels Cheap and two budget travel books, including Secrets to Summer Savings. For years she has been planning her own vacations using the Internet to extend her limited budget as far as possible and shares the tips and tricks she has learned, along with useful sites like FareCompare.com, to help others get the most out of their travel dollars. And to further inspire budget travelers everywhere, she finds terrific travel bargains and posts them each day on her Facebook page.