Overbooking: how not to get confused and fly on time

Overbooking: how not to get confused and fly on time

In April 2017, news outlets around the world posted a dramatic video. It shows how security guards roughly escorted a passenger off the plane. The incident is that the man had a ticket, and he purchased it in the most ordinary way, but the staff of United Airlines decided that it was he who should leave the plane and give up his seat to a company employee. This unpleasant situation is one of the types of overbooking. What is it and how to avoid trouble?

What is overbooking and when did it appear

Translated from English, “overbooking” means overbooking. That is, more passengers purchased tickets for the flight than the plane can accommodate. How is this possible? There are three main reasons:

1. The airline has sold more tickets for the flight than there are available seats.
This practice actually exists. It appeared in the 50s of the last century in the USA. Marketers estimate that about 10% of passengers do not fly on the flight for which they bought a ticket. As a result, some places are empty. Airlines decided to sell more tickets to generate additional profits. This strategy most often pays off, but sometimes conflict situations arise.

2. The failure occurred due to technical reasons.
When a plane is found to be faulty before a flight, it can be replaced with another one. If the new board is less spacious, someone will have to stay and wait for a new flight.

3. The airline urgently needs to send another passenger.
This unexpected guest could be the owner of a VIP card or, as in the case of United Airlines, an airline employee himself.

Overbooking: how not to get confused and fly on time

What to do if you are not allowed on a flight

1. Find other victims
Find everyone who is in a similar situation. Be sure to exchange contacts. Together it will be easier to get favorable accommodation conditions and compensation for flight cancellations from the airline.

2. Collect Evidence
Make sure that an airline employee marks your ticket as being denied check-in due to lack of space. Record your conversation with the staff on video. Record the time when you were denied access to the plane. Keep receipts for all expenses that you were forced to make while waiting. This will help justify your requirements.

3. Demand compensation

— Amenities
Depending on when your new flight will take place, ask the airline staff to provide you with a hotel room and transfer to it, and cover the costs of communication and food.

Passengers are often offered tickets to another flight with an upgraded level of service without additional surcharges. A great opportunity to fly business class. If you are offered a ticket of a lower class, demand a refund of the difference in cost.

— Money
Monetary compensation varies from country to country. Yes, and in different airlines too. Here are the numbers you can use as a guide.

European Union

250€ – compensation for a failed flight with a range of up to 1500 kilometers due to the fault of the air carrier.
400€— compensation for a failed flight with a range of 1500 to 3500 kilometers due to the fault of the air carrier.
up to 600€ can be obtained for a non-occurring flight within the European Union, departure from airports in the EU, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, as well as flights of European carriers arriving at airports in the European Union. For example, if a European airline flies from America or Asia to Europe, then this is also assessed under European law.

Compensation is due:

a) for a flight delay lasting 3 hours or more;
b) refusal to board the plane;
c) delay or cancellation of flight for technical reasons depending on the airline.

The statute of limitations for a claim for reimbursement ranges from 3 to 6 years, depending on the legislation of the countries with which the air carrier operates. Compensation is not provided in cases of terrorist attacks, strikes and bad weather.


It’s different in the States. If the waiting time is less than an hour, then it is useless to demand compensation. She won’t be there. If you wait from 60 to 120 minutes, you are entitled to compensation in the form of double the cost of the air ticket, but not more than $675. If you wait more than 120 minutes – four times the cost of the ticket, but not more than $1350.


If you have problems with a domestic flight or a Russian airline delays an international flight, the amount of compensation will be insignificant. The passenger is required to pay a penalty in the amount of 25% of the minimum wage per hour of delay, but not more than 50% of the transportation fee.

On April 3, 2017, Russia joined the international Montreal Convention. This is a good sign for passengers. It is not yet clear how quickly the new rules will take effect and what compensation you should expect. To change the system, it is first necessary to amend the Air Code, and they are only at the stage of discussion in the State Duma.

Comment by Evgeny Lonsky, regional director of AirHelp in Eastern Europe

The Montreal Convention protects passengers in the event of flight cancellation or delay, loss of baggage and death of a passenger. Compensations are calculated using Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). This is a conventional unit currently equal to 80 rubles.

In case of loss, damage and delay of luggage, compensation up to 1131 SDR is due – about 90,500 rubles.

For flight delays, according to the Montreal Convention, more significant compensation is due – up to 4694 SDRs. This is almost 380 thousand rubles for each passenger.

In case of death of a passenger – up to 113,100 SDR (9 million rubles). Now this amount is 2 million rubles.

At the same time, passengers should not count on maximum compensation. Countries independently adopt regulations and form judicial practice, which in fact reduce the maximum payment amounts.

In Russia, all issues with airlines regarding the amount of compensation will be resolved through the courts.

Overbooking: how not to get confused and fly on time

How to protect yourself and fly on time

Unfortunately, there is no absolute guarantee against trouble. But there are a number of rules, following which you will protect yourself as much as possible.

1. Check in for your flight online. Preferably in advance. All other things being equal, the first person to receive a boarding pass gets to board the plane.

2. If you plan to check in for your flight at an airline counter, don’t be late. Slow passengers are more likely than others to find themselves in an unpleasant situation.

Comment by Evgeny Lonsky, regional director of AirHelp in Eastern Europe

No matter what country you are in, be sure to keep your boarding pass if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

To receive compensation, you must contact the carrier with a written application, or submit an online application. In both the first and second cases, you will need to attach a copy of your passport and boarding pass.

Consideration of an application takes on average more than three months. You can also try to get a refund using online services. Some of them offer the opportunity to check for free whether your flight is eligible for compensation, upload the necessary documents and submit your application.

The airline can accept the claim and pay immediately. If this does not happen, but you intend to fight to the end, you will have to go to court.

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