Overbooked flight compensation

Air passenger rights are protected by EU Regulation 261/2004. There are cases when airlines overbook the flights – they sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane or they arrange a smaller plane for the flight if not all the tickets were sold.

As a passenger, you should know your rights and be careful not to sign any documents that would eliminate your air passenger rights for this flight, for example, don’t sign the agreement that you voluntary leave the overbooked flight. Furthermore, make sure that you have appropriate evidence for your denied boarding – it should be indicated on your boarding card or on your baggage receipt, if you don’t have this evidence, contact the carrier staff. Evidence of denied boarding and late arrival of alternative flight (more than 3 hours) will insure you receive the compensation, which might be up to 600 euros.

Circumstances to receive a overbooked flight claim compensation

There are certain conditions to receive overbooked flight compensation. They depend on the flight origin, extraordinary circumstances etc.

Firstly, your flight should begin inside the EU or land in the EU, but in this case the carrier must be EU-based airline. There are also included flights in Norway, Iceland and Switzerland in EU Regulation 261/2004.Travelers of the charter, scheduled, or low-cost flights also have the right to receive a flight claim compensation. What is more, package holidays may also be compensated.

However, airlines have some space for compensation denial and they try to use it as much as possible. There are cases when compensation will not be approved – extraordinary circumstances, such as strikes, political unrest, bad weather conditions, airport operation failures, airplane manufacturing errors, birds flying into the engine and similar disruptions. Fortunately, flight staff strikes are excluded from this list.

If you arrive late to the departure gate, flight claim compensation may also be rejected. Make sure that you will be at the gate on time. You would not receive compensation if you bought your flight ticket with a special tariff, which is not available to other customers directly (for example, an airline staff tariff). Furthermore, involuntary denied boarding is not considered in the case when boarding is denied for the reasonable reason (for example, inadequate travel documents, visa issues etc.).

In short, certain conditions must meet requirements in order to receive overbooked flight claim compensation. One more thing to remember – don’t forget to apply for the compensation as soon as possible, because various countries have different time limits for validation of application. You will find those mentioned factors briefly in the table below:

Compensation payment is deliveredCompensation payment is omitted
Flights that begin inside the EUWhen flight disruption appears because of extraordinary circumstances. Flight staff strikes are excluded from this list.
Flights that land in the EU (if the carrier is EU-based airline)Because of late arrival to the departure gate of the passenger
Charter, scheduled and low-cost flights and also package holidaysReasonable reasons for passenger’s denial of boarding (such as inadequate travel documents, visa issues etc.)
Flights in Norway, Iceland and SwitzerlandSpecial tariff ticket
If passenger applied for the compensation before the end of application validation date in that country

Amount of overbooked flight claim compensation

You may receive this amount of compensation in condition alternative flight arrival is more than 3 hours later than your original flight:

  • 250 euros, when the distance is less than 1500 km.
  • 400 euros, when the distance is 1500 – 3500 km.
  • 600 euros, when  the distance is more than 3500 km.

However, flight claim compensation may be reduced by up to 50% in the event of overbooked flight. This case arises when you, as a passenger, pick alternative transport offered by airlines, which arrives to destination with less than 2-4 hours delay depending on the flight distance.

Care services

Airlines must provide care service to their passengers under these circumstances even in extraordinary conditions:

Inside the EUOutside the EU
Flight distances less than 1500 km:

A delay more than 2 hours

Flight distances less than 1500 km:

A delay more than 2 hours

Flight distances less than 1500 km:

A delay more than 3 hours

Flight distances less than 1500 km:

A delay more than 3 hours

Flight distances less than 3500 km:

A delay more than 4 hours


Care services include:

  • Food and drink.
    Airlines must provide food and drink for their passengers in proportion to their waiting hours.
  • Telephone and Internet.
    Airlines must refund up to 2 phone calls, emails or faxes.
  • Accommodation.
    Airlines must pay for the hotel if overnight stay is needed while waiting. Transfers to and from the airport are also refundable.

Suggested steps when flight is overbooked

Every passenger should know the process, what to do in the moment of overbooked flight. In fact, airlines are not concerned about passengers compensation, so it is important to to know your rights, but also communicate with them. In the list below you will find main suggestions, what should you do if your flight is overbooked:

  • Don’t lose or throw away your boarding pass or other travel documents.
  • Ask airlines staff for the written confirmation why your boarding was denied.
  • Don’t sign any documents that would eliminate your air passenger rights for this flight.
  • Stay at the gate till you receive all the information about the alternative flight, refund etc.
  • Better check for alternative flights on your own at first in order you may find worth deal for you.
  • Don’t forget to inform airlines staff about your intention to book a flight on your own.
  • Request for an alternative flight or a full refund of the ticket.
  • Take a photo proving your landing time of alternative flight.
  • Request airlines staff to provide you drinks and foods, telephone or internet, hotel room and transfer if needed (care services must be provided even in the event of extraordinary circumstances).
  • Collect your receipts of your expenses for the food, drinks, transfers or hotel room.

Important tips before applying for compensation

There are some special facts to know when you apply for flight claim compensation. Read them carefully and use them if needed:

  • Apply for the flight claim compensation as soon as possible, because there are different time limits for application in various countries.
  • If you got a seat in a higher class on alternative flight, you don’t have to pay additionally. If you got a lower class seat, you can receive a compensation of 30-75% of the price you paid.
  • Each passenger receives compensation. If you traveled with your family, all your family members may receive compensation for the overbooked flight.
  • If you were on the business trip, you are the one, as a passenger, who should apply for the compensation, not the company, which paid for the ticket.

FAQ: frequently asked questions about overbooked flight compensations.

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