Your Rights as an Airline Flyer

Your Rights as an Airline Flyer

There are many rules and regulations that passengers follow when they purchase their airline tickets. According to The Wall Street Journal, Delta’s contracts are 51 pages, United Airline’s contract is 46 pages, and American has the shortest of the three measured at 21 pages1. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when flying.

Airlines can deny passengers entry onto a flight

Overbooking is a common, legal practice that helps airlines compensate for no-show passengers.2 “Overbooking rules were written decades ago when a much higher percentage of tickets were refundable,” stated The Wall Street Journal3. Passengers do have some rights if they bumped from a flight as a result of an airline’s overbooking practices4.

Involuntarily Bumped from a Flight

When passengers are involuntarily bumped from a flight due to overbooking, airlines must5:

  1. Ask for volunteers to give up their seats.
  2. Give a written statement containing the passenger(s)’ rights.
  3. Rebook the passenger(s)’ travel and pay the them if there will be a delay.
  4. If the passenger asks, the airline must write a check instead of giving a voucher.

According to NPR’s All Things Considered, the maximum compensation given to passengers involuntarily bumped from a flight is $1,3506. The U.S. Department of Transportation gives more specific guidelines here.

If a passenger finds themselves being bumped from a flight for a reason other than overbooking, or if they accepted a voluntary bump, the above protections may not apply.

If you find yourself at the gate and the airline staff is saying that the flight is overbooked, remember you do have some rights.



  1. Scott McCartney, “After United, a Look at Your Rights as a Flier,” Wall Street Journal, April 13.
  2. “Fly Rights,” U.S. Department of Transportation, Accessed on April 13, 2017,
  3. Ibid.
  4. Megan Leonhardt, “Know Your Rights: Here’s What an Airline Owes You When You Get Bumped,” Time, April 11, 2017,
  5. Ibid.
  6. Christopher Dean Hopkins, “How To Not Get Bumped From A Flight, And What You’re Entitled To If You Are,” NPR, April 11, 2017.


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