What Airlines Don’t Tell You

While you may think you’re being tech savvy by booking your flight online and getting your boarding pass with a tap of a button on your phone, you still can get bumped from a flight. Airlines always overbook because they’re counting on some passengers not showing up.

Believe it or not, if this happens, you do have more rights than you may realize besides getting a flight voucher.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in 2011 stepped up airline regulations. As a result, if you get kicked off a flight because of the flight being overbooked, airlines actually have to pay you cash. But they’re not required to tell you that.

The airline is also obligated to get you to your destination without any extra charge if you’re denied boarding due to overbooking. They must get you on the most reasonable flight with a minimal layover and accommodate you in the meantime. That means putting you up in a hotel, if necessary, at no extra charge and give you free meal vouchers. If you paid for any extras, like upgrades, those fees must be refunded to you.

Even if you end up staying with friends instead of using a hotel voucher, the voucher should be in the form of where you can use it anytime.

Your entitlements

If the airline gets you to your destination, they might think they don’t owe you anything. But you’re still entitled to get your cash back.

If you arrive two hours later than expected you’re entitled to 200 percent of your one-way fare back. That amount goes up to 400 percent if you arrive more than four hours after your initial arrival time. There are caps on how much an airline is required to reimburse you. It’s a maximum of $675 (for 200 percent) and $1,350 (for 400 percent). You’re allowed to get this in cash or a check, not an airline credit.

Remember, don’t sign anything. If you sign away your rights, the airline legally has to re-seat you but they don’t have to pay up.

Avoid being overbooked

To avoid the risk of not getting on the flight in the first place, reserve a seat number when you book online and check in within 24 hours of your flight. Some airlines don’t always allow you to check in remotely, though, which can present a problem.

Another trick is to be a frequent flyer or elite member of an airline. You not only get air miles for the trip but you’re less likely to get bumped since the airline considers you more valuable.

Baggage compensation

Even if you get on another flight, it doesn’t mean your baggage goes with you. The Department of Transportation says you’re allowed to claim up to $3,500 for delayed baggage, hopefully enough to cover the cost of a suit or a coat for a few days.