About overbooking flights: why, how, when and what rights we have as passengers

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The idea of ​​overbooking scares us. It is a common practice for accommodation units, but it also happens on flights. Overselling or overbooking is the sale of a volatile good or service that exceeds actual capacity. Overselling is a common practice in the travel and accommodation industry. Overbooking is a LEGAL practice, but under certain conditions we will talk about below.

About overbooking

The idea of ​​overbooking was not invented in Romania and it is not a practice of low-cost companies or local hotels. Overbooking is practiced everywhere. It is not a rule and it does not happen often, but there is also this situation.

WHY did overbooking occur? The statistics say that there is a very small percentage of clients (3% -5%) who do not show up for boarding on commercial flights or do not show up at the accommodation unit. And airlines are looking to get their planes full at any price. Or the hoteliers want to have all the rooms occupied.

But let's see HOW the concrete thing is happening in the aeronautical industry. Overbooking it is the practice where airlines sell more air tickets than the number of seats available on the plane. This is to try to compensate for no-show situations (when a passenger, for reasons independent of the airline, does not appear on boarding). Thus the place left vacant is reallocated to another traveler, who could not reserve a ticket on that flight.

But overbooking can also occur in other situations, not just through multiple tickets sold. Overbooking can occur when changing the aircraft from one with more seats to one with fewer seats. Here were some cases also at TAROM. It also occurs when 2 or more flights are combined. There are also such practices, when the airline decides not to operate certain flights because there are few passengers, but it gathers everyone on a common flight and happens to be left out.

Stand-by passengers

And now let's go into a bit of detail with the passengers. In the case of an overbooking flight, there are passengers with tickets purchased in advance, who have completed all the check-in formalities, and have a seat. And there are additional passengers, who are notified that overbooking is done and mentioned on the boarding pass (usually "place allocated to the boarding gate").

Those in the first category have the right to embark without problems. People paid the ticket, followed the procedures, showed up at the appropriate boarding gate, so everything is on their side. The latter will reach the boarding gate and wait. Only after boarding, it checks if there are any vacant seats and only then does it offer room for waiting passengers.

But there are cases when passengers with all the formalities done, with tickets purchased early, wander towards the boarding gate and arrive too late. They can be refused, their seats already being allocated to other passengers in stand-by.

CAREFUL!!! The refusal to embark is made at the boarding gate, not after you board the plane.

What happens WHEN all passengers arrive on boarding? The airline undertakes to do overbooking, all based on statistics and rules. European Union statistics show that the chance for all passengers to board is from 1 to 10000. Thus, airlines are taking steps to fly at full capacity.

WHAT RIGHTS DO WE HAVE AS PASSENGERS in the event of overbooking? If all passengers show up for boarding and overbooking is activated, the airline has the right to refuse to board the extra passenger. In the first phase, we are looking for volunteers who will voluntarily give up the flight in exchange for compensation. And if there are no volunteers, the passengers on standby will be refused boarding, but the company is obliged to take care of them according to the EU regulation (we refer to the rights of passengers in the European Union).

EU regulation in the case of over-booked flights:

If you showed up at the time of check-in with a valid reservation and the necessary travel documentation and are denied boarding due to overbooking or operational reasons and you do not want to voluntarily give up your seat, you have the following rights:

Compensation - refusal to board due to overbooking

Amount in EURDistance
250Up to 1 km
400Over 1 km in the EU and all other flights between 500 1 and 500 3 km
600Over 3 km

If you are denied boarding, you are always entitled to compensation.

Refusal to board due to overbooking - refund, redirection, finding an alternative flight

The airline has to offer you the possibility to choose one of the following variants:

  1. refund of the ticket price and, if you have a connecting flight, a return flight, with the first opportunity, to the departure airport
  2. redirection to the final destination on the first occasion or
  3. redirection at a later date agreed upon by you, under comparable transport conditions and depending on the places available.

From the moment when you have opted for one of these variants, you have no rights over the other two. However, the airline can offer you compensation depending on the flight distance and the delay recorded in relation to the arrival time initially provided.

  • In case of the airline does not fulfill its obligation to give you the opportunity to redirect or a return flight to the place where you left, on the first occasion and under comparable transport conditions, you must to reimburse you the cost of the ticket.
  • Where the airline does not give you the opportunity to choose between reimbursement and redirection, but unilaterally decides to reimburse you the price of the original ticket, you have the right to a additional reimbursement of the price difference between the new and the original ticket (under comparable transport conditions).
  • If the departure flight and the return flight were booked separately and are operated by different companies again the departure flight is canceled, you have the right to reimbursement only for the canceled flight.

However, if the two flights are operated by different companies, but are included in the same reservation, if the departure flight is canceled you have the following rights:

  • Compensation
  • Possibility of choosing between the refund of the price of the whole ticket (round trip) and redirection for the departure flight

Assistance in case of refusal to board due to overbooking

During the wait, the airlines have to offer you free assistance. If you have trouble traveling, notify the airline to avoid having to find solutions yourself. Airlines should also ensure, if possible, that they provide accessible accommodation for people with disabilities and accompanying dogs. The assistance provided must include:

  • refreshments
  • food
  • accommodation (if you have been booked for the next day)
  • transport between the airport and the place of accommodation
  • 2 phone calls, telex, fax, e-mail.

If you are NOT offered assistance and buy yourself soft drinks and food, the airline should give you your money back, as long as the expenses you incurred were necessary, reasonable and adequate. Keep the vouchers for settlement. You are entitled to assistance only for the duration of the waiting until the forwarding, under comparable conditions of transport and in the shortest possible time, to the final destination or to the return flight to the airport from which you originally departed (if you missed the connecting flight due to problems with the previous flight).

In exceptional cases, the airline may decide to limit assistance or not at all, if this would lead to delays and higher for passengers waiting for an alternative or delayed flight.

Pleasant travel and no overbooking

I hope now it is clear to everyone how overbooking is. I know, it's an unpleasant situation. But before you complain on facebook and other social channels, try to solve the problem properly and according to the rights you have. If you feel that your rights are not being respected, file a complaint with the airline, the authorized authorities. CAREFUL!!! We have rights, but we also have obligations!

If you have any questions or concerns, leave a message and we'll come back with documented answers!

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