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What to do if your flight is overbooked

20 September 2018

It is common practice for many airlines to overbook their flights, particularly during the busy summer periods. This is due to the tendency for a certain percentage of passengers to simply not turn up. In order for the airline to maximize their profits, they sell more tickets than actual seats on their aircraft.

Here follows some advice if a situation occurs on your flight where there are more passengers than available seats.

Check-in attendants will usually announce to the passengers the situation and ask for any volunteers to forfeit their seats for some compensation. It may be an idea for you, if not in a hurry, to take advantage of this offer. The airlines tend to offer a travel voucher otherwise known as an MCO (a miscellaneous charges order) in exchange for your inconvenience. It is recommended that you ask the following questions before you take this opportunity.

  • Is the Voucher transferable to other members of your family? This is helpful, in the event of you being unable to travel in the future for whatever unforeseen reason.
  • Ask if the voucher can be used on partner airlines. This increases your travel options and how you choose to fly.
  • Ask when the next confirmed seat is available. You don't want to be put on standby for another flight in the future; for you may find that you will be waiting longer than initially anticipated.
  • Also, ask if other amenities will be paid for whilst you wait. Will you get compensation for food and a hotel room? You don't want to spend your money on these things whilst waiting for your next flight. It kind of defeats the objective of voluntarily forfeiting your seat.


Compensation can vary from airline to airline. Generally speaking, if you are delayed between one and two hours you will be entitled to $200 in compensation. If delayed from between two and four hours, compensation can be as much as double that amount.

Amounts of compensation can be negotiated and it is a wise idea to discuss all the options with flight personnel before volunteering to have your seat given away.

To be eligible for compensation you must have a confirmed reservation on the flight you are being moved from.

If you want to avoid the situation of being moved to another flight and are adamant about departing on the day you have booked, you need to phone the airline prior to your departure and confirm your seat. It also helps to show up early for your flight, flight attendants are more likely to ask people who show up late for their flights to voluntarily forfeit their seats.

In Conclusion

If you are not in a great hurry to get to your desired destination and your plane is overbooked, it may be an idea to explore this particular option. There could be substantial benefits in getting yourself bumped by voluntarily giving up your seat.

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