Whoever said bad press is still press must be biting their tongue– particularly about the United Airlines overbooking scenario. UA faced with extreme backlash from all over the world when the video of a bloodied passenger was being dragged off the plane in Chicago by authorities when he refused to give up his seat.
This event has spiked mass outrage and confusion worldwide. Just what can a passenger do if their flight is overbooked? The usual occurrence is that a gate attendant will announce that your flight is overbooked and will ask for volunteers who are willing to give up their seat. What usually accompanies this is a travel voucher.
As a flier, this is what you should know:
If you volunteer, you may up getting less
The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that airlines ask for volunteers to switch flights before they kick anyone off. But negotiations are entirely between the passengers and the carrier. Airlines dictate what the compensation looks like, but it’s usually a travel voucher toward a future flight or a gift card.
That may be totally fine. If you’re fine with going to a different gate, getting to your final destination a little late and banking a flight credit, feel free to volunteer. You should know, though, that you aren’t entitled to call up an airline and ask for more once you say yes to a deal. If you’re ever kicked off involuntarily, you are entitled to monetary compensation.
If you do get a voucher, the DOT recommends that you read the fine print very, very carefully. You should inquire into how long the ticket voucher is good for, if you can use it over holidays, or if its good for international trips.
You can end up screwing yourself over if you don’t.
If you’re booted off your flight, there are federal laws the airlines need to follow
When airlines don’t get enough volunteers and must involuntarily bump passengers, there are rules they need to follow. Carriers must deliver fliers to their final destination within one hour of their originally scheduled flight — or they have to start forking over money.
If fliers get to their final stop one to two hours late (or one to four hours late if they’re flying internationally), airlines are required to pay double the original one-way fare, with a $675 limit. If fliers get in more than two hours late (or four internationally), airlines have to pay 400% of the one-way fare, with a $1,350 limit. Passengers have the right to insist on a check instead of a free flight or a voucher when they’re involuntarily kicked off a flight, according to the DOT. And they always get to keep their original ticket, which retains its value.
Flying an airline that says it doesn’t oversell? You still may want to be careful. JetBlue Airways advertises that it does not overbook flights, but the airline still reserves the right to do so in its contract.
If you want more compensation, don’t cash in the voucher or check
The DOT warns fliers that their bargaining power is the greatest before they cash in their reward for being involuntarily bumped — whether it’s a voucher or a check. The DOT website says that “once you cash the check (or accept the free flight) you will lose the ability to pursue more compensation or money from the airline later on.”
If the cost of being bumped exceeds what you were paid at the airport, you can always try to negotiate a higher settlement via the airline’s complaint department, the agency says. And if that doesn’t work, you can sue.
It is always within your right to decline the check and take the airline to court to try to obtain more compensation.