Rights and Compensation for Overbooked Flights

Have you experienced an overbooking or been denied boarding? Learn about your rights here and find out what compensation you may be entitled to.

If you have been denied boarding due to reasons such as an overbooked flight, you may be entitled to compensation of up to 600 euros. EU Regulation 261/2004 applies not only in cases of flight cancellations or delays but also if you have been rejected at the gate due to an overbooked flight.

We recommend seeking professional assistance to claim your financial compensation for an overbooked flight unless you want to take legal action against the airline, which unfortunately often rejects claims from private individuals.

If you want to find out how much you are entitled to, you can enter your travel details into our compensation calculator for free - or you can already file your case by clicking below.

Overbooked Flight: Always Remember to Demand Documentation from the Airline!

Before you assess your rights regarding overbooking, it is crucial that you can prove you were denied boarding on the flight.

In cases of flight cancellations, you typically receive an email or SMS notifying you of the cancellation. This does not happen when you are denied boarding. Therefore, it is essential that you actively request some form of documentation from the airline confirming that you were denied boarding.

If you have experienced overbooking, we recommend approaching the airline at the counter and asking for written documentation of the boarding refusal. Also, request this written documentation to be dated, stamped, and signed.

If you do not receive any documentation, you risk losing all your rights, including the ability to claim compensation due to overbooking from the airline. For instance, services like Flyhjælp would find it extremely challenging to prove in court that you were denied boarding if the airline itself has not acknowledged rejecting you at the gate. 

Therefore, always remember to demand written documentation showing that the airline denied you boarding! 

In case you didn’t get written documentation, you can also meet the burden of proof if you have witnesses. If you had a family member, colleague, or other witnesses who can testify to what was said and done, that can be used as evidence. 

Why Can You Be Denied Boarding?

To maximize their earnings, airlines often sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane. They calculate that during a regular departure, a few passengers may not show up due to reasons such as illness or traffic problems. However, it also happens that all passengers show up, and then the airline has to deny boarding to some passengers. They deliberately overbook the flight to maximize their profits.

There are also cases where there are issues with the aircraft, which is then replaced with a smaller plane with fewer seats, no longer accommodating all passengers the airline has sold tickets to.

It can be very frustrating to be denied access to a flight when you have a valid ticket in hand. Fortunately, the number of overbookings has significantly decreased as the EU regulation has tightened rules for airlines. However, it still happens that passengers are denied against their will, and in those cases, you may be entitled to compensation.

Of course, there are valid reasons that can lead to being denied boarding:  

  • Health and Safety Reasons
  • If a passenger is intoxicated, aggressive, sick, etc. 
  • If the passenger does not have the correct travel documents 

Overbooked Flight: Your Rights

If you are denied boarding due to an overbooked flight, you may be entitled to compensation. 

EU passenger rights apply if:

  • You can prove that you were denied boarding
  • You are flying from one EU country to another EU country, or from an EU country to a non-EU country
  • You are flying to or from airports outside the EU with an EU airline
  • The overbooking occurs during a layover outside the EU but is part of a journey that starts in an EU country, and the whole trip has the same booking number
  • You have checked in at the airport no later than 45 minutes before the scheduled departure unless the airline has notified otherwise in writing


If a passenger has posed a significant safety risk to the completion of the flight, the airline has the right to deny that person boarding. In these situations, the airline is exempt from paying compensation, even though it still involves denied boarding.

Additionally, you are not entitled to compensation if, during boarding denial, you have made an agreement with the airline due to their overbooking or similar situations. You can read more about this in the section "If You Voluntarily Agree to Give Up Your Seat in Case of Overbooking."



What Are Your Rights Regarding Overbooking?

When airlines reject or deny passengers boarding, three rights arise that you, as a passenger, can choose from:

  • The airline must refund the full ticket price, and you also have the right to interrupt your journey and be flown back to your original departure point as soon as possible by the airline
  • The airline must rebook the journey to the final destination as soon as possible (it is the airline's duty to pay for a trip with another airline if necessary)
  • Rebook the journey at a different time of your choice if there are available seats on the flight

Note: Once one of the above options has been chosen, it is not possible to change the choice. Therefore, you should explore your options before making a decision.

When you are subjected to overbooking, you have the right to financial compensation and possible refreshments.

The size of your compensation for an overbooked flight depends on the flight distance and is divided into the following four categories:

Reason A flight of 1,500 km or less A flight between 1,500 and 3,500 km A flight over 3,500 km between EU countries A flight over 3,500 km to/from EU countries
  250 Euro 400 Euro 400 Euro 600 Euro


In some cases, the airline has the right to reduce the potential compensation by up to 50%. This can happen if you are rebooked on a new departure and do not arrive later than:

  • 3 hours (for all flights under 1,500 km)
  • 3 hours (for flights over 1,500 km within the EU and all other flights between 1,500 - 3,500 km)
  • 4 hours (for flights outside the EU and over 3,500 km)

Refreshments After Denied Boarding

When you are denied boarding, you may have to wait several hours to catch another flight. Therefore, as a passenger, you have the right to refreshments in the form of food and drinks if the waiting time from the original departure time exceeds 2 hours.

Additionally, the airline is obliged to provide transportation and accommodation at a hotel if your departure is not until the next day.

If the airline has not offered you the above services, and you, for instance, have purchased food and drinks out of your own pocket, you can apply for reimbursement of these additional expenses from the airline. Please note that this requires you to keep all receipts related to the expenses that the airline should reimburse.

If You Voluntarily Agree to Give Up Your Seat in Case of Overbooking

Most airlines will ask passengers if they voluntarily want to give up their seat on the plane, in exchange for compensation such as financial compensation, discount vouchers, seat upgrades on the next flight, or similar. Cash or voucher compensation is usually provided by the airline as compensation for not taking the scheduled flight. If there are not enough passengers voluntarily giving up their seats during an overbooking, the airline has to start denying boarding to some passengers.

Airlines usually try to resolve problems arising from overbooking. For example, they might arrange with some passengers to be rebooked on another flight, offering a lower compensation amount or other forms of reimbursement. The airline may also offer a refund of the flight ticket and any compensation. In this case, you are then on your own and responsible for your further travel

If you have made similar arrangements with the airline and agree to be on another flight or receive a refund of the flight ticket, you are not entitled to additional compensation.

Therefore, it is crucial to consider whether the agreement with the airline outweighs both the hassle and the financial aspect for you.

When you file a case with Refundmore, we investigate your case and retrieve the compensation for overbooking that you are entitled to from the airline. It takes only 3 minutes to file the case using our form, which is entirely free 

If Refundmore wins the case, Refundmore charges a service fee of up to 30% of the obtained compensation/refund. 

If it is necessary for Refundmore to bring the case to court to obtain the payment from the airline, a filing fee corresponding to a maximum of 15% of the obtained overbooked flight compensation/refund is charged, as our internal legal department or external lawyers have to do extra work.

You can see our price list here.


It is risk-free for you because Refundmore does not charge any fees or expenses if no compensation is paid - regardless of whether the case has been brought to court or not.

Reason Delayed arrival Flights under 1.500 km Flights 1.501 - 3.500 km Flights over 3.500 km between EU-countries Flights over 3.500 km to/from EU-countries
Cancelled* 2 – 3 hours 250 € 200 € 200 € 300 €
Cancelled /Delayed 3 – 4 hours 250 € 400 € 400 € 300 €
Cancelled/Delayed More than 4 hours** 250 € 400 € 400 € 600 €
Overbooked   250 € 400 € 400 € 600 €


Your entitlement to compensation for an overbooked flight depends on the length of the flight. The longer you fly, the higher the compensation you may be eligible for. If you are unsure about the amount you are entitled to, you can easily find out with our compensation calculator. Simply enter the departure and arrival airports and details about your airline.

Denied Boarding Without Compensation

As a general rule, you are entitled to compensation for denied boarding and/or compensation for an overbooked flight, but there are cases where your rights may be forfeited.

Denied boarding due to the following reasons affects your right to compensation:

  • If you cannot provide valid identification.
  • If you lack a valid visa or other forms of entry permission.
  • If you have not checked in on time.
  • Security or health reasons.

Is Overbooking Legal?

Airlines sometimes sell more tickets than there are actual seats on the plane. They do this assuming that not all passengers will show up due to reasons like illness, traffic problems, etc. However, sometimes all passengers do show up, and then the airline has to deny boarding to some passengers because there isn’t enough room for everyone.

It is not illegal for airlines to overbook their flights; however, stricter rules have been introduced to prevent it and ensure a high level of protection for passengers. These rules are outlined in EU Regulation 261/2004.

How Can I Avoid an Overbooked Flight?

You can never fully guard against an overbooked flight since the number of tickets sold for the particular journey determines whether there is an overbooking or not.

However, there are certain things you can do to minimize the risk:

  • Be at the gate well in advance - the last passengers to show up are usually the ones not getting on the flight if it’s full.
  • Check-in as early as possible, as airlines have previously denied boarding based on check-in time.
  • Avoid flying on popular travel days, which are typically Fridays, Saturdays, and Monday mornings.
  • Fly outside of peak seasons, such as school holidays.
  • Reserve your seat well in advance - even if it costs extra.
  • Avoid connecting flights if possible and book a direct flight when available.
  • Join the airline's loyalty program, as airlines are less likely to deny boarding to loyal passengers.

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