Rights when overbooked

Were you denied boarding? Read about your rights to receive compensation here

If you have been denied boarding due to an overbooking, you might be entitled to EUR 600.


Refundmore recommends you seek professional assistance to get the compensation you might be eligible for, unless you want to take on the airline yourself, which, unfortunately, often refuses claims received directly by passengers.


If you want to know whether you are eligible for compensation, please try our calculator


Require documentation that confirms the overbooking!

Before you start reading about your rights in the event of an overbooking, remember to always demand documentation from the airline that confirms you have been denied boarding.


When a flight is cancelled, the affected passenger often receives a text message or an e-mail, wherein the airline informs the passenger of the cancellation. This does not happen when passengers are denied boarding and the reason why is clear. If the passenger can’t prove the overbooking, then the airline does not have to pay the compensation.


Refundmore recommends all passengers make contact with the airline at the time of the denied boarding and demand documentation that confirms the overbooking. Please note that the documentation has to be dated, stamped and signed. Otherwise, it will be challenging to prove you were denied boarding.


Why would you be denied boarding?


Denied boarding may occur when an airline is seeking to maximise its profit and sells more tickets than there are available seats on the aircraft. On an average flight, there will typically be a few absentee passengers. For certain departures, where all passengers are present, the airline is forced to deny some passengers boarding. This is called commercial overbooking.


Boarding denials are a great nuisance to passengers who suffer lost time. With the passage of recent regulations, the number of overbookings has decreased. However, it does still happen that passengers are denied boarding, and in those cases, passengers are surely entitled to compensation if the passengers can prove it.


Your rights when experiencing an overbooking


If you have been denied boarding as a result of overbooking, according to EC-Regulation 261/2004, you are eligible for compensation if:

  • You are flying from an EU country to another EU country, or are flying from an EU country to non EU country.
  • You are flying from airports outside EU, but with an EU airline.
  • The rejection occurs on a connecting flight outside EU, but is a part of a trip that began in an EU country, and with the same booking reference for the whole trip.
  • You have checked in no less than 45 minutes before departure, unless the airline has notified you otherwise, and are present for boarding before the gate closes.


Please note:

Airlines have the right to deny a passenger boarding if the passenger represents a safety risk for the flight. Passengers will not be entitled to compensation in these cases.

If you made an arrangement with the airline and voluntarily gave up your seat, your right to a standard EU compensation might be void. Read more about this in the section “if you voluntarily agree to give up your seat”.


What are you entitled to?

When the airline denies you to board, you have the right to make use of the following three options:

  • The airline must refund the full fare. You have the right to cancel your journey and be flown to the first departure point as soon as possible with any airline heading to that destination.
  • The airline must rebook you to the final destination as soon as possible. (If the airline reroutes you to a flight flown by another airline, they have to pay the new ticket.)
  • To be re-booked for another date of your choice, as long as there are seats available on the chosen flight. You can search online for options suiting you better than the option originally offered to you.


Please note: Once you’ve chosen an option and notified the airline, you are not permitted to change your choice.



In the event of a denied boarding, you are eligible for financial compensation, care and accommodation


The exact size of the financial compensation depends on the flight distance:

  • Flights of 1.500 km or less: 250€
  • Flights in between 1.500 and 3.500 km: 400€
  • Flights of more than 3.500 km in between EU countries: 400€
  • Flights of more than 3.500 km to/from EU countries: 600€


In some cases, the airline reserves the right to reduce the size of compensation by up to 50%. This might happen if you are rebooked to another departure and do not arrive later than:

  • 2 hours (for all flights less than 1,500 km)
  • 3 hours (for flights of more than 1,500 km within EU, and for flights in between 1,500 - 3,500 km)
  • 4 hours (for flights outside EU and of more than 3,500 km)

Care and accommodation

When an overbooking occurs, you may experience several hours of waiting before getting rerouted to another departure. Bear in mind that the airline is required to offer you:

  • Food and drinks, reasonable for both the time of day and duration of the delay.
  • Hotel accommodation, if necessary.
  • Transportation between the hotel and airport, if necessary.
  • Two telephone calls, fax, or e-mails to airline.


If the airline has not offered you any of the above-mentioned services, and you have incurred extra expenses due to the overbooking - the airline must reimburse the expenses. This applies as long as you can document the purchases with receipts.


If you voluntarily agree to give up your seat

Mostly, the airlines will ask you to voluntarily give up your seat for an allowance which may consist of cash, vouchers, seat upgrading etc. This is typically offered as compensation due to the overbooking. Often, the offered cash/voucher is not the amount specified in the Regulations. If you accept an amount lesser than the amount specified in the Regulations, you have made an agreement with the airline and cannot expect the rest later.


It may also happen that the airline offers you a reimbursement of the fare and potential compensation, which may be lower than the actual compensation you are entitled to. If you accept this offer, the airline is not responsible for rebooking you.


If you have made similar arrangements - and voluntarily agreed to give up your seat - your right to compensation may be void. Never give up your seat for an amount lower than what the law stipulates.


When registering a case at Refundmore we’ll investigate your case thoroughly and may collect compensation from the airline. It only takes two minutes to register a case with the help of our calculator.


If Refundmore wins your case and the claim leads to a payout, our client pays the service fee equivalent to a maximum of 30 % of the amount paid out.

If Refundmore finds it necessary to send the case to court in order to receive the payment from the airline, an extra court fee equivalent to a maximum of 15 % will be added to the pricing. This is due to the extra work which the internal and external lawyers and paralegals will be carrying out to win your case. It is free of risk for our clients as Refundmore does not charge any fee if the claim does not lead to a payment - whether the case has been sent to court or not. 

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