Everything you need to know about denied boarding

Have you ever been contacted by an airline to voluntarily surrender your flight reservation in exchange for some benefits? That’s usually the first thing air carriers are expected to do when they assume they will have to deny boarding for a flight. If they don’t find enough volunteers, they might have to deny boarding to passengers at the gate against their will.

Denied boarding - when does it happen?

Once a passenger has received her flight ticket or any document stating she has been accepted and registered for the flight, she has a “confirmed reservation”. Denied boarding happens when a passenger present herself to the gate but the airline refuses her access to the board.

Even if some cases of denied boarding are a result of a problem with travel documents, concerns about security or health, most registered cases continue to be caused by overbooking. Overbooking is the case when the airline sold more tickets than there are seats on the plane - and every buyer showed up for the flight.

How do airlines choose which passengers to deny boarding?

Airlines are required to start by calling for volunteers to give up their reservation - in exchange, they can provide those passengers some benefits: money, a voucher, a trip free of charge, hotel services, emplacement on a higher class once at another time, a bonus card… The value of the benefits is determined by the airline, so should you decide to surrender your seat, be prepared to bargain and make the most of the situation!

In the event that not enough volunteers present themselves, anyone is likely to be denied boarding against their will, with the exception of people with reduced mobility and those accompanying them.

What kind of compensation am I entitled to if I have been denied boarding against my will?

Should the airline deny you boarding against your will, you are entitled to the reimbursement of your ticket within 7 days, a return flight to your initial point of departure or to be booked on another flight to your destination.

In addition, the airline should take care of you, for example provide a meal and refreshment in proportion with the delay, as well as accommodation and transport from the hotel to the airport should you need to stay one night or more.

According to EU regulation 261/2004, you are also entitled to a compensation if the delay at your final destination amounts to 3 hours or more:

  • €250 for flights of 1500 km or less;
  • €400 for flights between 1500 and 3500 km;
  • €600 for flights of more than 3500 km.

You can take a look at how to claim your compensation if you haven't done so already.

A case of denied boarding can really ruin your trip, just as much as a flight delay or cancellation. If you have the time, preparing a backup plan could be a good idea before going to the airport. You can take a look at these travelling mistakes that you want to avoid to make sure your trip is going to be fine.

Stay tuned for more info about passenger rights and travel tips!