When going on a trip aboard an airplane, we have to expect some complications that may happen to us. One of the unpleasant situations that may befall us is being denied boarding due to overbooking. In such a case, it is useful to know your rights and when the airline is obliged to pay compensation.

What is overbooking?

Overbooking is a practice that allows airlines to keep the cost of air travel relatively low. It is most often used by low-cost airlines, which are aware that some of the passengers who have paid for tickets for the trip will ultimately not show up at the departure hall. So, in order to avoid empty seats on the plane, airlines sell more tickets than are actually available. Overbooking allows them to maximize revenue.

If all the passengers show up at the airport, it is therefore obvious that some of them will not be able to travel to their destination. If you are faced with such a situation and the airline denies you boarding and thus forces you to change your itinerary, remember what passenger rights you have.

Overbooking - passenger rights

When it comes to overbooking and the passenger rights associated with it, the key issue is that the practice in question is fully legal and can be used by airlines in accordance with the law. Few travelers are aware that when buying a ticket, a contract is concluded with the carrier, which includes a provision on overbooking.

The provision in question states that in a situation where the plane is overcrowded or a small number of passengers are willing to take the flight, the airline may deny you boarding.

In practice, this means that by buying a ticket for a flight, you automatically accept the potential situation in which the crew will refuse you to board the machine.

Compensation for overbooking

If you happen to be overbooked and thus forced to give up your seat on a plane, you can claim compensation from the airline.

Pursuing a claim and the amount of compensation for denied boarding is regulated by Regulation 261/2004 of the European Parliament and the Council. If overbooking happens to you during your trip, you should also receive an airline ticket for a replacement flight in the first place.

The amount of compensation for overbooking

The amount of compensation for denied boarding depends on the distance separating the port of departure and destination. We have provided examples of compensation amounts in case of overbooking in the table below.


Amount of compensation


€250 per passenger

up to 1500 km

€400 per passenger

from 1500 km within UE

€400 per passenger

from 1500 km to 3500 km

€600 per passenger

more than 3500 km

What to do if boarding is denied?

At the time of overbooking, the airline is obliged to start looking for passengers who give up their seat and thus their original flight in exchange for tickets for another flight/voucher to be used to purchase airline tickets in the future.

It is worth knowing that in case the flight is sold out and the passenger voluntarily cancels his reservation, there is no compensation for overbooking.

What rights does a passenger have in the case of overbooking?

In a situation where overbooking has happened to us and we are left with nothing to do but wait for the next flight, let's remember the rights we can exercise.

  • If the next flight is on a different date, such as the next business day, the airline should provide accommodation for each passenger, as well as transportation between the accommodation and the airport.
  • In addition, it is the airline's responsibility to provide you with food; you also earn the right to care and are entitled to two phone calls.

Will you always be entitled to compensation for overbooking?

It is worth remembering that passengers who voluntarily give up their seats as a result of overbooking lose the opportunity to claim compensation. So if you give up your ticket for a flight, you must reckon with the fact that you do not thereby waive your right to compensation.

Airlines can also offer travelers who are denied boarding a seat in a higher class on a replacement flight. If this offer is favorable to you and you are not bothered by the flight delay, you can take advantage of the offer made by the airline. Remember, however, that in such a situation you also lose the possibility of compensation for an overcrowded flight due to the fault of the carrier.

Overbooking - rules for claiming compensation

In order to claim compensation from an airline for a missed flight due to overbooking, first of all you must refrain from accepting any vouchers or discounts on future flights.

In order to claim compensation for overbooking, it is necessary to have the appropriate travel documents. You can file a claim based on the following:

  • Flight number;
  • Names of the airport of origin and destination;
  • One of the documents: boarding pass, ticket or (possibly) online confirmation of flight booking.


Did a overbooked flight happen to you?