Dear TikTok Fans: Airlines Don’t Always Owe You Money For Being Bumped

by joeheg

Being from an older generation, I don’t get all of my news, trends, and tips from TikTok videos. However, I’m present enough to realize that other people do. That’s why I paid attention when there was a video with over 6 million views, telling people what US airlines owe them when they’re bumped from a flight.


What airlines don’t want you to know about getting “bumped” 🤯 #lawyer #travel #money

♬ original sound – Money Lawyer Erika

Like almost everything on TikTok, this video has some truth, but it is short on details. While the law behind the compensation quoted is correct, there are many caveats to that payment.

The video refers to an infrequent circumstance called “involuntary denied boarding,” In fact, there’s an entire webpage on the US DOT website devoted to this event.

People need to understand that the rules only apply if they do not choose to accept being bumped. Airlines try everything they can to involuntary bump a passenger from a flight to avoid the bad publicity such an event brings with it. In fact, airlines will often pay way more money to get volunteers to give up their seats. For example, Delta paid $4,500 each to 30 passengers who voluntarily delayed their trip to Iceland for a day.

Airlines aren’t always so generous and will often try to pay people in airline credits like Delta Dollars or American Airlines vouchers if you voluntarily give up your seat. They may also throw in an upgrade on your replacement flight, a free hotel if you have to stay overnight and meal vouchers if you’re forced to stay at the airport. In fact, American Airlines has called us before the flight offering to bump us in exchange for a voucher worth more than our ticket price.

People don’t know that there are many instances where an airline doesn’t have to give you anything if you’re bumped.

Bumped passengers are NOT eligible for compensation in the following situations:

  • Aircraft Change – A smaller plane is substituted for the larger one the airline originally planned on using due to operational or safety reasons.

  • Weight and Balance – Weight or balance restrictions that apply to planes with 60 or fewer seats for operational or safety reasons.

  • Downgrading – A passenger is downgraded from a higher class of seating to a lower class.  In this case, the passenger is entitled to a refund for the difference in price.

  • Charter Flights –  A flight contracted for a specific trip that is not part of an airline’s regular schedule.

  • Small Aircraft – Scheduled flights on planes holding fewer than 30 passengers.

  • Flights Departing a Foreign Location – International flights to the United States.  However, some airlines on these routes may provide compensation voluntarily. Also, the European Commission has a rule on bumping passengers from flights that apply to passengers departing from a European Union member state; ask the airline for details, or visit this page.

I bet you didn’t know you weren’t eligible for any compensation for a plane swap, did you? Not that airlines won’t try to get people to take money for compensation, thus the example above for the $4,500 per passenger payment.

The TikTok video does get the 4X price of the ticket compensation correct, given specific terms are met:

Most bumped passengers who experience short delays on flights will receive compensation equal to double the one-way price of the flight they were bumped from, but airlines may limit this amount to up to $775.  Passengers experiencing longer delays on flights will receive payments of four times the one-way value of the flight they were bumped from, but airlines may limit this amount to up to $1,550.

One thing you need to know is that airlines can’t bump you once you’ve boarded the plane.

  • Generally, no.  If you have met the following conditions, airlines are not allowed to deny you permission to board, or remove you from the flight if you have already boarded the flight:

    • You have checked-in for your flight before the check-in deadline set by the airlines; and
    • A gate agent has accepted your paper boarding pass or electronically scanned your boarding pass and let you know that you may proceed to board.

The most obvious exception to this rule is if you’re an airline employee flying with your benefits and not on a paid ticket.

While it’s fun to watch TikTok videos to get travel tips, don’t expect them to give you all of the details. Did you really expect to learn everything about getting bumped from a 30-second video? Airlines aren’t going to begrudging pay you what you’re required if they involuntarily bump you from a flight. In reality, they’re going to try everything in their power to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.

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