The recent news and PR nightmare United Airlines is experiencing after the removal of a passenger on UA3411 sheds light on an industry practice of overbooking flights. The practice is not limited to just US based carriers like United, but most airlines around the world also sell more seats for their flights. Should an airline deem you fit to be “denied boarding” and to be “re-accommodated,” you may feel singled out and frustrated. It may not be easy and unreasonable to sue the airline, but you do have options and can get compensation. With numerous holidays in the region and the summer travel season approaching it may be time to be aware of what you can do should this happen to you.
Prior to booking your ticket (and before you go the airport) for your next trip, you should read and understand the terms of carriage that accompanies your ticket. Airlines throughout the Asia-Pacific region have different reasons that can justify ground staff to bump you off your seat. Here are just some examples of the basic terms for airlines when it comes to flight overbooking:
a. Philippine Airlines - The airline can give varying rewards for volunteers who give up their seats. Non-voluntary confirmed passengers who get bumped would get compensation per the airline’s standards.
Air Asia – You can choose to book you on the
next available flight, OR give you travel credits that you can use within the
next three (3) months.
c. Cebu Pacific – PHP150 (~USD$3), roundtrip travel voucher, and the airline will provide meals and/or accommodations if needed.
What to do
There are certain actions you can take to mitigate your risk to be bumped off an overbooked flight. Air Asia recommends passengers to check-in for their flights 45 minutes (domestic), and 1 hour (international) before the flight. You may use various airline apps and the airline website to check in for your flight. For Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines, they ask that passengers arrive at the gate 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time.
If the airline is asking for volunteers, remember that you the paying customer has leverage in what can be seen in a “negotiation.” Depending on the airline, the compensation can increase the amount of compensation and perks if there are no initial takers. The best move would not to volunteer, as the compensation for being “involuntarily bumped” could be higher.
LESSON: Always be aware the terms of carriage and try to avoid volunteering.