As we head into spring, demand for air travel shows no signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, many flyers are getting bumped from flights they had already booked. Although the pandemic prompted an overall decrease in flights, the percentage of travelers who have had their flight plans involuntarily delayed or canceled has increased.
In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of passengers who were denied boarding between October 2021 and September 2022 had doubled compared to the same period the previous year.Read More »
Why Are More Passengers Getting Dropped From Their Flights?
Flight availability is determined by available planes and passenger needs. When demand is predictable, airlines have an easier time optimizing their flight schedules, which leads to fewer or manageable changes to passenger itineraries. Before the pandemic, airlines could make travel forecasts based on known seasonal trends and the overall behaviors of business and leisure travelers. When travel patterns changed during the lockdown, the market for flights became more volatile.
Airlines responded to decreasing demand by reducing service, but without the data to make reliable forecasts, future needs were harder to predict. Markets around the world imposed different travel restrictions, and business travelers adapted to their situation by working from home. As a result, while some flights were undersold, others were frequently oversold when low availability coincided with spikes in travel.
Even when demand follows fairly stable patterns, airlines intentionally oversell flights because it’s common for passengers to cancel on short notice or fail to arrive for their flight. This situation can be a hassle for responsible and frequent travelers.
Will I Be Compensated if I Get Bumped From My Flight?
The U.S. Department of Transportation has mandated that passengers who are bumped from prepaid flights are due to receive compensation. Exact details can be found on their website. Typically, for U.S. domestic flights, you are entitled to 200% of the price of your one-way flight up to $775 if you arrive at your scheduled destination one to two hours late.
If your flight is delayed for more than two hours, the compensation increases to 400% of the value of your ticket, with a maximum of $1,550. For departing U.S. flights to international destinations, the terms of financial compensation stay the same, but the window between scheduled and actual arrival times goes up to four hours.
When a desirable flight is oversold, airlines often ask passengers to volunteer to take a different flight in exchange for cash or a travel voucher. In extreme circumstances, the payout can exceed the threshold set by the DOT. If passengers are downgraded to a lower class of service before departure, they may be issued a partial refund.
There are some rather large caveats to these rules that can negatively affect consumers. Airlines are not required to compensate you if they need to substitute an aircraft, if the plane is overweight or unbalanced, or if you are on a flight returning to the U.S. that departed from a foreign country.
How Can I Reduce the Probability of Travel Disruption?
If you want to minimize the chance of disruption to your flight plans, there are a few steps you can take to make it less likely that you’ll be bumped. First, sign up for a frequent flyer number. If you travel enough to earn elite loyalty status with an airline, you are more likely to board as scheduled. Always book tickets with seat assignments, even if your choice of seating is less than ideal. You should also bring a paper boarding pass because it serves as a record of your schedule and must be manually adjusted by an agent.
What Should I Do If My Flight Plans Change Unexpectedly?
If your travel experience becomes a nightmare, do your best to stay calm and polite. In general, you are more likely to suffer the consequences of your own unfortunate behavior, even if you feel the airline was the catalyst. Airlines can remove you from the flight, put you on a no-fly list, and ban you from future travel. Law enforcement can get involved if you break the law, and overall, the risk of acting out isn’t worth it.
How Can I Make the Best of My Situation?
When your flight plans are delayed, interrupted, or canceled without your consent, do your best to stay patient, arm yourself with knowledge, and negotiate for the highest compensation possible. With careful planning and steely determination combined with a reasonable amount of flexibility, you will enjoy your trip and maximize your chances of getting to your destination on time.
Explore Games and Apps