Involuntarily Bumped.. What Can You Do?
There’s been an extraordinary amount of public backlash regarding the Doctor involuntarily bumped from the United Airlines flight earlier this week. The video made headlines and was the subject of twitter feeds all over the world. I wasn’t the only one surprised to see him so forcibly removed. Can they literally drag you out kicking and screaming??! Although the degree of violence may be in question, the answer is yes.
It’s actually pretty commonplace for airlines to bump people from their flights. They frequently overbook to make up for no-shows. Thankfully, it is usually dealt with a little more diplomatically.
When the airlines overfill a flight, they ask passengers to give up their seat voluntarily. Most often, these passengers will be offered the next available flight as well as additional compensation such as a free future flight. Normally passengers who aren’t in a hurry are happy to give up their seat in exchange for the compensation.
Airline representatives are given guidelines on negotiating the compensation. Understand what they are offering. If they are offering passage on the next flight, make sure they confirm your seat. Standby can have you standing by for a much longer time than you bargained for. If they are expecting you to wait for a flight the next day are they offering you a hotel room? Money for meals and a transfer to the hotel and back to the airport until your scheduled flight?
The Department of Transportation has not mandated the type and amount of compensation so you’re on your own. Negotiate.
If no volunteers can be found, the airlines have the right to choose the passengers to be bumped. Although there is not a mandated method of how an airline makes this choice, it must be a written company policy. This written explanation of your rights and the selection method used should be provided to you. Some examples would be the passengers that were last to check-in or possibly a random computer selection.
However they decide, the rule is… if tagged, you’re it. You’ve gotta go. It is suggested that you go peacefully. Law enforcement will be involved if you refuse.
So if you are involuntarily bumped, what can you be sure of? First of all, the DOT does not mandate that the airline give you any compensation if they can get you to your destination within an hour of the original scheduled arrival time.
If you arrive over an hour but under two hours later on domestic flights, or between one and four hours later on international flights, you can expect to receive 200% of the original one-way fare with a maximum of $675.
If you arrive over two hours later domestically or over four hours internationally, or if you are not offered another flight, you are to receive 400% of the original one way fare with a maximum of $1,350.
You have the right to insist on a check, if you prefer that in lieu of a free ticket or travel voucher.
The US Bureau of Transportation Statistics notes that involuntary bumping occurs only 1 in 10,000 passengers so the chances are pretty slim that it will happen to you. To lessen the likelihood, check-in online 24 hours prior to your flight and get to the airport early.