Every day, around 12 million people fly on 120,000 planes in different parts of the world, according to a report from the Air Transport Action Group in 2018, but according to the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya even more people plan to catch a flight but find that they can’t.
They have bought their ticket and arrived at the airport on time, but are denied boarding because the airline has sold twice as many seats as are available.
In fact, this is a completely legal practice: airlines are aware that a few passengers don’t turn up for flights or cancel at the last minute, so they sell a few extra seats to compensate. Unfortunately, they sometimes misjudge a situation quite badly and this means that a number of passengers are unable to fly, especially in summer when most flights are fully booked.
When this happens the airline tries to find volunteers to give up their place in return for certain benefits or conditions, but what if not enough people are willing or able to prolong their stay or to catch a later flight?
In that case, the airline decides who can fly and who cannot. Those affected have the right to a refund for the unused part of their journey, an alternative flight with the same airline on a date convenient to the passenger and financial compensation which will depend on the length of the journey. They can also claim compensation for damages.
The airline is also obliged to provide food and refreshments, depending on the time the passengers have to wait, and to put them up in a hotel for a night or two if necessary. The company is also responsible for transport between the airport and hotel.
Financial compensation, which can be paid in cash, by bank transfer, cheque or a voucher for a similar journey, ranges from 250 to 600 euros depending on the distance of the flight. However, these amounts are reduced by half if alternative transport is found without much delay.
In order to claim damages and compensation, victims of overbooking should fill out a form at the Aena airport counter, or, as a final resort, at the State Air Security Agency (AESA). Claims should be accompanied by documentary evidence of their flight, such as their ticket or booking confirmation, and proof of any additional costs incurred for food and accommodation while waiting for another flight.