How to Get More Money If You’ve Been Thrown Off a Flight

It confuses me that airlines are allowed to sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane, which puts you, the passenger, at risk of being kicked off the flight you paid for. When the flight attendant informs you that your seat is no longer occupied, she says that you are being “redirected to a later flight” and that, unfortunately, “nothing else can be done.” But that’s just not true. When you are involuntarily denied boarding, they can do something: pay you. Because you are entitled to compensation. Here’s what you need to know about how much money you can get when an airline requires you to give up a seat on an oversold flight.

What you need to know about an aircraft collision

Don’t worry about researching the conditions of specific airlines on your own. Lawyer Erika Kuhlberg has gained a huge following on TikTok with her videos outlining legal requirements for airlines you probably don’t know about. (Her catchphrase is ” Erika reads the fine print so I don’t have to!”)

In a 2021 video that has over 8 million likes, Kullberg explains how “departure” from a flight is legally referred to as ” involuntary denied boarding “. (Sounds a little more impressive, doesn’t it?) As the Department of Transportation (DOT) explains, a “denied boarding” occurs when more passengers are scheduled on an aircraft than there are available seats.

If you (1) have a confirmed booking, (2) check in for your flight on time, (3) arrive at the boarding gate on time, and (4) fail to deliver you to your destination within one hour of your flight’s original arrival time, you are entitled to compensation for an involuntary denied boarding on an oversold flight.

So how much money can you get if you get thrown off a flight?

As we said last week , when it comes to refunds for delays, the amount depends on the difference between the new arrival time and your original itinerary:

  • 1 hour or less: no compensation
  • 1 to 2 hours (1 to 4 hours international): Minimum 200% of original one-way fare or $775, whichever is less.
  • 2 hours or more (4 hours or more worldwide): Minimum 400% of your original one-way fare or $1,550, whichever is less.

If you paid with frequent flyer miles, the refund is based on the lowest amount paid for the same ticket on your flight. The numbers primarily come directly from DOT, but different airlines will vary depending on the specifics.

You won’t always be compensated after being hit.

Unfortunately, there are several situations where injured passengers are not eligible for compensation.

  • Aircraft replacement, where a smaller aircraft is replaced by a larger one that the airline originally intended to fly for operational or safety reasons.
  • For operational or safety reasons such as weight or trim restrictions that apply to aircraft with 60 or fewer seats.
  • If you downgrade to a lower seat class, you will not receive a full refund, only the price difference.
  • Charter flights outside the regular airline schedule.
  • Scheduled flights on aircraft with less than 30 passengers.
  • International flights to the USA. However, some airlines on these routes may provide compensation voluntarily.

Final advice before takeoff

The next time you encounter an overbooked flight, arm yourself with language straight from the DOT Resales and Resales page . Know what you are entitled to if your flight is delayed or cancelled; for example, the terms and conditions of major airlines such as American, Delta, and Southwest state that if your flight is delayed overnight, you are legally entitled to free hotel accommodation and transportation to and from your hotel. (Kullberg depicts this advice in this video posted in September 2022.)

As we recently recommended , one of the most helpful resources would be the Department of Transportation (DOT) airline customer service dashboard . Follow this link for a list of major US airlines and the services they promised to provide in the event of a “controlled” flight cancellation or delay.

Another note: do not automatically accept a flight voucher . While some airlines may use vouchers right away to soften the blow, you have the right to request a cash check instead. And finally, here is our guide to the rights of air passengers that everyone should know.


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