What Happens If Your Flight Is Overbooked? Don't Panic Just Yet
We can't all make like Jolly Old Saint Nick and enjoy a sleigh ride through the sky; unfortunately, we have to rely on the airport. The holidays are stressful enough, but travel complications make tensions all the more high (and spiked eggnog all the more necessary). Here's what happens if your flight is overbooked this season (don't get stressed just yet).
First and foremost, let's get the basics of overbooking out of the way. Airlines tend to overcompensate for what they call a no-show rate, the passengers with confirmed trips who are not expected to actually show up. After taking this into consideration, airlines will book more tickets than seats to ensure that the plane is full. However, when everyone arrives to board the flight, there's definitely a problem... and a few unhappy customers. Sadly, Rudolph and co. cannot come and save you from the dilemma.
If you're a little worried about making it home for Christmas at mom and dad's, take a deep breath and plan accordingly. LifeHacker teamed up with Air Help to give travelers a few tips for dealing with crowded planes, and these points are certainly worth keeping in mind. The process might not be terribly fun, but there is a way to navigate these hurdles so that you'll find yourself under the Christmas tree with loved ones on Dec. 25.
Just like your local train and bus routes, planes also have peak flying times. If everyone and their grandmother is heading home right before the holidays, find a flight with a different date and time that won't be quite as crowded. It might be a little more inconvenient and atypical, but there's a chance off-peak flights won't experience the same overbooking issues as the ones with popular take-off times, LifeHacker reports.
There's definitely something to be said about status when boarding a plane. If it comes time to bump passengers from a flight, the airline will most likely favor frequent fliers, according to LifeHacker, so if you're head out of town quite a bit and you feel deserving of a few extra perks, becoming a frequent flier might be the way to go.
Lastly, before setting any travel times in stone, make sure you read every small detail and know what you are entitled to, should the flight experience overbooking. If the particular line you're traveling with offers the option to be rebooked, don't be a good Samaritan — you're not interested.
But let's say you are stuck in the airport because you didn't follow the first three steps. It's unfortunate and might closely resemble Hell, but let's take a deep breath (and get a hot chocolate at the kiosk to ease the tension). You have to know your rights, and according to Mic, if your new trip is within one to two hours for domestic flights or one to four hours for international flights, the airline is expected to pay 200 percent what you paid for your ticket (though it'll only be the one-way price).
Legally, airlines must tell their travelers what exactly they are entitled to if they cannot board the flight they had intended. Compensation is required for the inconvenience, but make sure you're taking full advantage of what's owed. Mic even suggests that negotiation is totally acceptable, so get ready to make an offer Delta or United Airlines can't refuse.
For those who are in a more fortunate overbooking situation than others, some people will voluntarily agree to get on a different flight and work out something with the airline. Don't be that person. It might sound selfish — and doesn't exactly exemplify the holiday spirit — but when you're traveling, especially if you're alone, your concern first and foremost is yourself.
Now that you're equipped with the tools needed to navigate your travel situation, don't act like the Grinch — you can make it through. Good luck, travelers and happy holidays.
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