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Delayed, Cancelled and Overbooked Flight Laws

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Do I Have Rights if an Airline Bumps Me off a Flight Because of Overbooking?

Yes.  The airline is required to first ask passengers to volunteer to give up their seats and to take a later flight.  Most likely, the airline will offer a free round-trip ticket to any volunteers.  If this tactic does not work, or the number of volunteers is insufficient, the airline has no choice but to begin bumping involuntary passengers from the flight.   

I Have Been Involuntarily Bumped from a Flight Because of Overbooking.  Am I Entitled to Compensation?

Generally yes, if you have a confirmed reservation on a non-charter plane that has a seating capacity of more than 60 passengers.  However, the airline may nonetheless legally refuse to compensate you if any of the following applies:

  • The airline offers you a seat on other flights so that you are scheduled to reach your final destination within one hour of the scheduled arrival of your original flight
  • The airline substituted a smaller aircraft for operational or safety reasons
  • The airline offered you a seat in a different class on the same flight at no extra charge, and you refused
  • The airline cancelled the entire flight
  • You failed to follow the airline's ticketing, check-in and reconfirmation requirements
  • You are an unacceptable passenger under the airline¿s rules and procedures (e.g., drunk)

My Flight Was Delayed, Diverted or Cancelled.  Am I Entitled to Compensation?

If you are booked on a domestic flight, the answer is no.  However, some airlines do offer meals, hotels and toiletries if you are delayed overnight. If you are booked on an international flight, the answer is also no. Under an international treaty called the Warsaw Convention, an airline is not required to compensate you for inconvenience or damages caused by flight delay as long as it can show:

  • that it took all necessary measures to avoid the damage; or
  • that it was impossible to take such measures.

You may try to persuade the airline to cover any direct damages caused by the delay (e.g., hotel, toiletries, meals) by referring to Article 19 of the Warsaw Convention, which states: "The Carrier shall be liable for damages occasioned by delay in the transportation by air of passengers, baggage or goods." 

Do I Need a Lawyer for my Delayed, Cancelled or Overbooked Flight?

If the airline did not give you compensation you were legally entitled to, a lawyer can help you recover damages.  An experienced lawyer can speak with the airline on your behalf and file a lawsuit if necessary.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-16-2018 10:46 PM PDT

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