Overbooked flight compensation

Sometimes, airlines sell more tickets than there are seats on a plane or assign a smaller plane when they don’t expect all passengers that bought tickets to show up for the flight. This results in what’s known as an overbooked flight and, as a result, some people are denied boarding the plane. Fortunately, your rights are protected under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council. So if were denied to board your flight as a result of overbooking, you can claim compensation.

EU Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 ensures you have certain rights, but you can waive these rights if you sign an agreement stating that you left the plane voluntarily. So don’t sign any agreements that would revoke your air passenger rights. In addition to that, you have to have evidence proving that you were denied boarding your flight. This fact should be indicated on your boarding pass or baggage receipt. If you don’t have this evidence, contact the airline staff to get it. If you can prove that you were denied boarding due to an overbooked flight, and your alternative flight arrived 3 hours later than the original flight would have, then you can claim compensation and get up to €600. So if you want to be compensated, don’t sign any agreements that would invalidate your claim.

Requirements to receive compensation for an overbooked flight

You must meet specific requirements to be eligible for compensation for your overbooked flight. These requirements include flight origin and extraordinary circumstances.

To be eligible for compensation, your flight must begin inside the EU or land in the EU, but in the latter case, the carrier must be an EU-based airline. According to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, flights to and from Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are also eligible for compensation. It must be noted that you have the right to receive flight compensation regardless of whether you travel on a charter, scheduled, or low-cost flight. What is more, is that package holidays can also be compensated.

Nevertheless, airlines can deny claims for compensation citing extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary circumstances are strikes, political unrest, severe weather conditions, airport operations failures, aircraft manufacturing defects, birds flying into aeroplane engines, and similar disruptions. However, airline staff strikes do not fall under extraordinary circumstances.

Airlines can also reject claims for flight compensation if you arrive at the departure gate late. Make sure you are at the gate on time. Furthermore, airlines can reject your claim if you bought your flight ticket with a special tariff (for example, an airline staff tariff,) which is not available to other customers directly. On top of that, the airline can reject your claim if there were valid reasons for denying you to board your flight (such as inadequate travel documents, visa issues etc).

To summarize, you have to meet certain requirements to claim compensation for your overbooked flight. It’s also important that you file your compensation claim as soon as possible because time limits for filing a claim vary between countries. See the table below for when your claim for compensation is valid.

Compensation claims are valid for: Compensation claims are invalid for:
Flights that begin inside the EU Flight disruptions that occur due to extraordinary circumstances. Flight staff strikes excluded
Flights that land in the EU (if the carrier is an EU-based airline) Passengers that arrived late to the departure gate
Flights in Norway, Iceland and Switzerland Passengers that bought special tariff tickets
Charter, scheduled and low-cost flights, and package holidays Passengers that were denied boarding due to legitimate reasons (such as incorrect documentation, visa issues etc.)
Passengers that applied for compensation before the end of the claim submission date in a particular country

Overbooked flight compensation amount

If your alternative flight arrived 3 hours later than it was originally planned, then, based on the flight distance, you can claim a specific amount that may be the following:

  • €250, if the distance is less than 1500 km.
  • €400, if the distance is 1500 – 3500 km.
  • €600, if the distance is greater than 3500 km.

Note that your compensation amount may be reduced by up to 50% if you agree to take an alternative flight offered by the airline, and the flight arrives at your destination airport less than 2-4 hours late, depending on the flight distance.

Care services

Airlines are required to provide you with care service (even in extraordinary circumstances) under conditions that include the following:

Inside the EU Outside the EU
Flight distance less than 1500 km with a delay of more than 2 hours Flight distance less than 1500 km with a delay of more than 2 hours
Flight distance less than 1500 km with a delay of more than 3 hours Flight distance less than 1500 km with a delay of more than 3 hours
Flight distance less than 3500 km with a delay of more than 4 hours


Care services include:

  • Food and beverages. Airlines must provide you with food and beverages in proportion to your waiting hours.
  • Telephone and Internet. Airlines must provide you with up to 2 phone calls, fax or email.
  • Accommodation. Airlines must pay for the hotel if an overnight stay is needed while waiting. They must also provide you with transportation from and to the airport.

What you should do if your flight gets overbooked

Every passenger should know what to do in the event of an overbooked flight. You should know that airlines are usually not concerned with compensating you. Therefore, it’s important to know your rights and communicate with the airline. Here is a list of useful tips to remember if your flight gets overbooked:

  • Keep your boarding pass and any other travel documents with you. Don’t throw them away.
  • Ask the airline staff for written confirmation explaining why you were denied boarding to your flight.
  • Don’t sign any documents that would waive your air passenger rights for that particular flight.
  • Stay at the departure gate until you get all the information about the alternative flight, ticket refund, and so on.
  • Check for alternative flights yourself first as you may find a good deal on tickets.
  • Don’t forget to inform the airline staff about your intention to book an alternative flight on your own.
  • Request for an alternative flight or a full ticket refund.
  • Take a photo proving the landing time of your alternative flight.
  • Ask the airline staff to provide you with food and beverages, phone calls, internet, hotel accommodation, and transportation should you require it. Airlines must provide care services even in the event of extraordinary circumstances.
  • Collect receipts of expenses you had such as for food and beverages, transportation or hotel accommodation.

Important things to know before you apply for compensation

Here is what you should remember before you file a compensation claim.

  • File your claim for compensation as soon as possible because time limits for filing a claim vary between countries.
  • If you got a higher class seat on your alternative flight, you don’t have to pay additionally. However, If you got a lower class seat, you can get compensation of 30 — 75% of the price you paid.
  • Each passenger receives compensation. If you travel with your family and your flight gets overbooked, all your family members can receive compensation.
  • If you were on a business trip, you are the one who should apply for compensation — not the company that paid for the ticket.

Get answers to frequently asked questions about compensation for overbooked on our FAQ page.

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