Missing a flight is a nightmare, but missing one due to overbooking is infuriating. Most people don't know their rights and assume their airline will honor them when in reality airlines count on travelers being uninformed to avoid paying compensations in full. Here's what you need to know if you ever encounter an overbooked flight.
Overbooked flight policies vary from country to country. In the U.S. United States, if a flight is overbooked the airline would first ask passengers if anyone wants to voluntarily give up their seat in return for compensation, negotiated between the two parties. However, if a passenger is involuntarily bumped, time becomes the central factor.
If a substitute flight arrives within an hour of your scheduled arrival time, compensation isn't due. After an hour, time is on your side. For arrivals one to two hours later than what's scheduled for domestic flights and between one to fours hours for international flights, you receive twice the value of your one-way fare, with a maximum of $675. Arrivals that are more than two hours late for domestic flights and more than four hours for international flights, you get four times the value of your one-way fare, with a maximum of $1,350.
Last year, an overbooked flight on United Airlines made national headlines as one of the passengers who was chosen to give up his seat refused to do so and was dragged off of the plane. Videos of the incident went viral, and even the airline's CEO issued an apology. Passengers had been offered $800 to give up their seat, and since no one took the company up on its offer, 'alternative' methods were employed according to United Airlines' statement. Will Nevitt, a passenger on the infamous flight, told USA Today the situation could have been resolved with more money.
There are people who can help you know when you're entitled to compensation. AirHelp is a site dedicated to helping passengers get their rightful compensation.
"If people knew what they are entitled to, they would probably think twice before accepting miles or that $50 voucher," Nicolas Michaelsen, AirHelp's co-founder, told USA Today.
With over five million happy customers, AirHelp might be an airline's worst nightmare and wronged passengers' best shot at earning what's theirs.
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