The Associated Press
You're waiting at the airport when an airline agent announces that the flight is oversold and they're looking for volunteers to give up their seats. What should you do, and what are your rights if the airline involuntarily bumps you off the flight?
- If you are bumped involuntarily, the airline must pay you the price of a one-way ticket — up to $400 cash — if they reschedule you to reach your destination between one and two hours of the original arrival time, up to $800 if a longer delay. A key detail: It's not when you actually get to your destination that determines the maximum, it's when the makeup flight is scheduled to get there, says Transportation Department spokesman Bill Mosley.
- If you think the flight might be full and you're flexible about taking a later plane, quietly tell the gate agent that you're willing to give up your seat. "Don't put the airline in the embarrassing position of admitting they oversold," says travel expert George Hobica. Former American Airlines flight attendant Todd Hicks says the gate agent might be so grateful she'll even upgrade your seat.
- If the airline offers travel vouchers for getting bumped, ask about limitations. Are there blackout dates or other restrictions on redeeming them? If there's no rush of passengers to the gate agent's desk, wait to see if the airline improves the offer. Some experts flatly advise against vouchers.
- Best flights to bargain for better compensation are late-afternoon or evening trips. They're popular with business travelers who have to get to a morning meeting or are eager to get home.
- If you're bumped or your flight is delayed and you are sure to miss a big event, ask for a full refund. Explain that the wedding or business meeting was your sole reason for flying to Cleveland, and now you're not going to get there before it's over. There's no legal requirement for the airline to refund the ticket price, but travel experts say often they will — they don't want a public-relations black eye.
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