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  • Writer's pictureDamian Brzeski

Overbooking - What to do if there are no seats on the plane?

Overbooking on a plane may seem like a travel nightmare, but it's actually a situation you can handle effectively if you know your rights.


In this comprehensive guide, you'll discover what exactly overbooking means for you as a passenger, what your rights are, and what steps you can take to ensure your travel experience remains positive, even in the face of these unforeseen changes.< /strong>



A scene showing passengers not allowed to board the plane due to the Overbooking procedure.

What is Overbooking on a plane?


Have you ever heard at the airport gate that your flight is overbooked and you are denied boarding? Even if not, you have probably heard about overbooking, but do you know what exactly it means and what rights you have in such a situation?


Overbooking, although it may seem a bit controversial, is a common practice in the airline industry. In this article we will look at why airlines choose to sell more tickets than they can actually offer, and what the consequences are for passengers who are denied boarding.


Overbooking, or excessive seat booking, is a situation in which airlines sell more tickets for a given flight than there are seats available.


Why is this happening? Airlines use this strategy to maximize the use of available seats on the plane. This is due to the fact that some passengers cancel their journey at the last minute or do not show up for check-in. Overbooking is an airline's attempt to balance this uncertainty. This strategy is most often used by low-cost companies, including Wizzair and Ryaniar. 


But what happens when all passengers arrive at the airport before their flight? Then some of them may be told that there is no place for them and they are denied boarding.


In this situation, they are entitled to certain rights and options, which may include financial compensation, alternative flights or even hotel accommodation.


In the following sections of the article, we will discuss in detail what overbooking means for you as a passenger and how to best proceed if you encounter this uncomfortable situation of being denied boarding your plane. Read on to be better prepared for your next plane trip!


Rights of passengers affected by overbooking


When you encounter an overbooking situation, as a passenger you have certain rights that are protected at EU level, especially under legal regulations such as Regulation EC 261/2004. These rights are intended to protect you against unforeseen difficulties and to ensure that you are adequately compensated for any inconvenience.


  1. Financial Compensation Under EU Regulations if you are affected by overbooking , you are entitled to financial compensation. The amount of this compensation depends on the length of the flight route:

  • Up to 1,500 km: 250 euros.

  • Inside the EU over 1,500 km, and for flights between the EU and third countries from 1,500 to 3,500 km: 400 euros.

  • For other flights: 600 euros. It's worth remembering that airlines can reduce these amounts by 50% if they offer an alternative flight which will allow you to reach your destination with little delay​​​ 2-4 hours max.

  1. Provision of an alternative flight or refund Airlines are obliged to provide you with alternative flight to destination. If this option is not satisfactory to you, you are entitled to a full refund of the cost of the ticket

  2. Custody rights If you are affected by overbooking, airlines should take proper care of you. This includes meals, drinks and even hotel accommodation if the next available flight is scheduled for the next day. They should also provide transportation to the hotel and back to the airport. _​.

  3. Right to information You also have the right to obtain full information about your situation, possible solutions and your rights. Airlines are obliged to provide you with all necessary information in a clear and understandable way​​.

  4. Negotiating the terms of a voluntary cancellation If the airline offers to voluntarily cancel your flight in exchange for certain benefits (e.g. vouchers, accommodation), remember that you have the right to negotiate the terms of this offer. Before you agree, make sure the offer is favorable for you


Remember that each overbooking situation is unique and your rights as a passenger are protected. If you believe that your rights have been violated, you can report the matter to the appropriate regulatory authorities in the country where the event occurred Knowing your rights and possible options will help you better cope with overbooking situations, minimizing the stress and inconvenience associated with it.


What to do if you are not allowed to board the plane due to overbooking?


When faced with an overbooking situation, it is crucial to remain calm and gather information. Airport staff often have no influence on the situation but will try to help, so it is important that you understand your options and receive a clear explanation from them.


Find out what alternative flight or transport options are available; airlines usually offer the next available flight to your destination, which may be direct or connecting. Less often, they offer transport by taxi or bus, or a train ticket.


As a passenger affected by overbooking, you have the right to negotiate the terms of compensation and care. This includes the right to financial compensation and care in the form of meals, drinks and accommodation if the situation requires it. Make sure you are happy with these terms and don't forget to claim the compensation and compensation you are entitled towhich may take the form of a voucher for future flights or financial compensation.


Remember to document all costs incurred due to denied boarding!


Documenting everything related to your flight, from boarding passes, through booking confirmations, to any vouchers or confirmations you receive - is an important step that may be helpful in pursuing claims or filing complaints.


If you have problems or are dissatisfied with the way the airline has handled the situation, you have the option of reporting the matter to your national regulatory authorities or the European Consumer Center.


If you believe your rights as a passenger have been violated, consider seeking legal advice. There are specialist companies and organizations that can help you pursue your rights in the event of flight-related problems, including overbooking. Overbooking can be a challenge, but by remembering your rights and responding appropriately to the situation, you can minimize the stress and inconvenience associated with it.


Remember that each airline has a signed contract with a local handling agent. There are two airports operating at the Gdańsk airport: LS Airport Services and WELCOME Airport Services. The handling agent has signed contracts with various coach carriers and taxi companies. 


If there is no replacement flight, the airline will commission such a company to transport you to the designated place. You don't have to deal with anything as a passenger. We, as Rabbit-Trans Poland, also perform such transfers from airports.

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