What to do if you have been involuntarily denied boarding

Airlines deliberately oversell flights in order to make the most revenue.  When I was travelling to a popular destination route on a weekend, I had my first experience of being involuntarily denied boarding along with several other passengers.

For similar cases, the best course of action would be to talk to the customer service desk for your airline.  They may give you an option to call customer service however the agents at the airport will be able to help you also.

While waiting, I decided to use the time to research my airline policies and what I am entitled to.  I was also researching online as to what flights are available.  I could only find flights leaving later and these involved an overnight stop.  I also looked into options were if I had to go to another airport that was located under an hour from the main city.  They had a service agents talking to individuals in line so I was mentioning these to them and also what my situation is.  I wanted to be prepared with what I want by the time I reach the desk.
By the time I reached the desk, they immediately got to work on rebooking me to another flight.  They were able to book and check me in on a flight that did not appear on my search result online so it looks like the online results were not definitive.  I did put forward that there are earlier flights which involved a local changeover but these were on Business Class.  I did not realize until later on but if the arrival time was earlier then I would have been able to ask to switch to the Business Class flight.  However since the later flight also arrived at the same time, it was not something that I can ask for.
They placed me on a direct flight, however they mentioned that I do not have a seat allocated to me on that flight and that there is still the chance that I am going to be denied boarding.  In which case I need to repeat the process again. They did try to book me to a morning flight as well, but I told that them in my situation I would have to request for a full refund since there would have been no point in flying if I can’t arrive that same evening.
I also initially thought that the reason why I was involuntarily bumped was because I went with a third-party ticket consolidator.  It turned out that this was a common airline practice to make the most of selling tickets to their flights in case of last-minute cancellations, no-shows and so on.

The good news was that I was provided with compensation (the amount depended on how long I was delayed – it ended up being $800), two meal vouchers and I ended up flying later that day.

If you were involuntarily bumped, here is what you should do:

  • Immediately look up what the policies and procedures are for involuntarily denied boarding.
  • Request for involuntarily denied boarding compensation.
  • Try to fly out on the next available flight that they can give you even if they mention that you don’t have a seat – if the worst happen and you cannot get on the flight you can repeat the process again of obtaining compensation.
  • Find out what other regulations are in your region.  For example, under EU rule 261/2004 you are often entitled to compensation.  Now you are not going to know the details by memory but it does help to know where to start once you get the bad news.

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