Overbooked flight?
How to make a claim on your own

Overbooked Flights

What really does happen when a flight is overbooked?


It may happen someday that you turn up at the airport just to be told that the flight has been ‘overbooked’ and there are no seats left on the plane, even though you have a confirmed reservation. If this happens to you at an EU airport and you are travelling with any airline or a non-EU airport and are flying into an EU airport on an EU airline, then you are legally entitled to compensation under EU law – provided you have a confirmed reservation and that you arrived at the check-in desk on time.

Isn’t it illegal for the air carriers to overbook a flight?

Overbooking’ is when airlines take more reservations for a flight than there are seats on the plane. This is not illegal. Airlines do it deliberately because they usually expect some of the passengers not to turn up. Usually it works out OK. But occasionally too many people turn up for a flight, so some of them get left behind (or “bumped”). If you are ‘bumped’ off a flight at an airport in the EU or at an airport outside the EU when flying to an EU airport on an EU airline, then the airline must pay you compensation.

How much am I entitled to receive if I have been denied boarding?


If you have been involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking, you are eligible for receiving a compensation of up to £475. The amount you should get depends on the length of your flight and on how late you will be arriving at your final destination, as shown in the following table:

Length of flightDelay at destination

(of the replacement flight)
Compensation due
Up to 1500kmUp to 2 hours£100
Up to 1500kmMore than 2 hours£200
1500km to 3500kmUp to 3 hours£160
1500km to 3500kmMore than 3 hours£320
More than 3500kmUp to 4 hours£235
More than 3500kmMore than 4 hours£475

If my flight enters the scope of the Regulation, when can the airline company legitimately deny my claim?


If the airline company is able to prove that the reason for which the flight was overbooked qualifies as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ as the Regulation defines the term, then it can legitimately deny paying you compensation; in this case, your right to compensation doesn’t actually exist.

Nonetheless, the most important thing you have to remember regarding this issue is that the burden of proof for the existence of such an extraordinary circumstance lies with the airline company and that, without such a proof, they cannot deny your complaint on this reason.

How soon after the flight-related incident should I file the complaint?


For England and Wales, you can claim compensation for a flight cancellation that goes as far back as 6 years. For Scotland, the flight date can go as far back as 5 years.

The time interval varies from state to state, depending on each national law’s relevant provisions.

How long does it take before I receive my compensation?


A regular complaint usually takes about 2 or 3 months’ time to be solved.
However, if you take your case to the Small Claims Court, we estimate that your compensation will be paid within 6 months from the moment you first submit your claim to the airline company.