Your rights when you are bumped from a flight

If your airline is unable to find a seat on a flight you have booked, you may be entitled to assistance and compensation

Sometimes airlines  book more people onto a flight than there are seats on the plane. This is because people don’t always turn up — despite having booked a flight. Airlines may also be unable to carry all passengers for other reasons, such as using a smaller aircraft than planned.

This means that occasionally too many people will attempt to check in for a flight. As a result, some passengers may be asked or forced to give up their place on the flight.

If this happens to you, it means you have been ‘bumped’ from your flight. It is also called ‘denied boarding’. Often you can volunteer to be bumped, but sometimes airlines will bump you without your agreement.

About EU law
 

Under EU law, you have certain rights if you are bumped from a flight. To be covered by these rules, your flight must be either:

  • departing from an EU airport and operated by any airline
    or
  • arriving at an EU airport and operated by an EU airline

(Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.)

Volunteering to be bumped
 

If you volunteer to be bumped, it’s up to you and your airline to agree compensation. Often, airlines will make an announcement at the gate offering compensation, which might be cash or vouchers.

If you volunteer to be bumped, you are also entitled to an alternative flight or a refund, as described below.

When it is not your choice
 

If you are bumped without your agreement, you are entitled to compensation, as long as you checked-in for your flight on time.

The level of compensation depends on the length of your flight and the timings of the alternative flight you are offered:

  • For short-haul flights that cover less than 1,500km:
    • If the delay is less than two hours, you can claim €125
    • If the delay is more than two hours, you can claim €250

  • For medium-haul flights that cover 1,500km – 3,500km, or flights within the EU of more than 1,500km:
    • If the delay is less than three hours, you can claim €200
    • If the delay is more than three hours, you can claim €400

  • For long-haul flights that cover more than 3,500km:
    • If the delay is less than four hours, you can claim €300
    • If the delay is more than four hours, you can claim €600

Your other rights when bumped

No matter whether you volunteered or were forced to be bumped, your airline must also let you choose between two options:

1. Choose an alternative flight

Your airline must offer you an alternative flight. It’s up to you whether to fly as soon as possible, or at a later date that suits you. Airlines often refer to this as being ‘rerouted’.

If you want to fly as soon as possible, your airline must also provide care and assistance while you wait for the flight. This means food, drink, communications and accommodation, if you stay overnight.

2. Receive a refund 

If you don’t want to fly, you can get your money back instead. You’ll get a refund for all parts of the ticket you haven’t used.

For instance, if you have booked a return flight and you are bumped from the outbound leg, you can get the full cost of the return ticket back from your airline.

If you’re part-way through a journey, your airline should also provide a flight back to your starting point.

More about claiming
 

Learn more about how to claim compensation after you’ve been bumped.