If you follow twitter or any other news outlet for that matter, you may have noticed a lot of coverage on the topic of being bumped from a flight. A few weeks ago, United Airlines took bumping to a whole new level when they aggressively removed a passenger that was chosen to be bumped. The passenger (who is also a physician) was already seated in the aircraft and refused to leave. In the end, United decided that moving their staff was more important than the passenger which resulted in the passenger being dragged off the aircraft kicking and screaming.
While most stories about being bumped from a flight aren’t quite that dramatic, it likely happens more than what is reported by media. At least up until now (10 year old bumped from Air Canada flight). It’s fairly normal procedure for an airline to slightly overbook flights on their larger planes b/c of the high probability of passengers not showing up. If the flight is at capacity, I often hear the gate announcement asking for passengers to volunteer their seats. I assume that if there are no volunteers at that point, the airline will essentially pick who gets bumped.
Fortunately, I’ve never been bumped from a flight, but the recent news has made me think, what if…? What would the airline offer in terms of compensation if I was bumped from a flight? How much would be fair compensation for interrupting my travel plans?
With that, I did some digging into some of the practices of the two main airlines in Canada – Air Canada and Westjet.
For all Airlines Travelling from a US Destination
If you are bumped traveling from a US destination which results in:
- Up to a 2-hour delay, you can receive up to 2x the one-way fare up to a maximum of $650.
- If the delay is longer than 2 hours, you are entitled to 4x the one-way fare up to a maximum of $1,300. This policy is mandated and enforced by the U.S Department of Transportation.
For Domestic Flights
While the Canadian Transportation Agency leaves compensation policies up to the airlines, in 2013, Air Canada updated their bumping compensation policy due to a customer complaint. Now, Air Canada passengers can get:
- $200 for up to 2hr delay;
- $400 for a delay of 2 to 6 hrs;
- $800 for a delay of 6+ hrs.
- Air Canada can offer a one-year travel voucher for up to 3x the above amounts. (source)
WestJet compensation is a bit more challenging to lock down as they claim that they do not overbook flights but can possibly be “oversold”. They offer compensation that is “acceptable” to the passenger (source).
To me, I like the idea of getting a 3x travel voucher for future use. Imagine getting bumped with a delay of 6 hrs and getting a travel credit for $2,400? I guess it depends on the situation, but if you had some slack in your travel plans, it seems like a fair trade-off to me.
Preventing the Bump
The ideal situation, of course, is to do what you can to prevent being on the bump list. From the articles that I have read, here’s how you can minimize the chances of being bumped:
- Travel first class (or have status like Super Elite);
- Purchase a fare higher than the lowest fare (ie. Flex instead of Tango on Air Canada)
- Purchase a selected seat;
- Check in online as soon as possible;
- Show up to the airport early.
The whole concept of bumping customers who have paid in full does not make a lot of sense to me. But there could be some good news on the horizon where the current government promises an updated passenger rights regime this year (2017).
Have you ever been bumped from a flight? What compensation were you offered?