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Sunday 18 February 2018

United Airlines incident: What are you rights when it comes to getting bumped off an overbooked flight?

United Airlines flight (Stock photo)
United Airlines flight (Stock photo)
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

United Airlines has found itself facing a storm of backlash after a passenger appeared to be dragged off one of their domestic flights over the weekend.

But what are your rights when it comes to getting bumped off a flight when an airline has overbooked it?

The EU has strict rules on what it calls "denied boarding".

Airlines have to ask for volunteers to give up their seats, in exchange for agreed benefits and they must also be given a choice of a number of options about how they want to proceed. If not enough people volunteer they may select people to bump off the flight.


Anyone who is moved off a full flight is entitled to the following benefits, whether they choose not to travel on the flight or are chosen by the airline.

  • A refund of the cost of their ticket within  seven days if you decide not to travel at all
  • Re-routing to their final destination at the earliest opportunity
  • Re-routing at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats


Meals, hotel accommodation and transport between the hotel and the airport must also be paid for by the airline.


If a passenger chooses a refund of the cost of the ticket they are also entitled to compensation which varies based on the length of the planned journey.

For flights of 1,500 km or less you are entitled to €250.

Flights in the EU that cover a distance of more than 1,500km and less than 3,500km entitle the person who choses a refund after being bumped off is entitled to €400.

Compensation of €600 is mandatory in the case of all other flights.

Flying first class:

If your seats are upgraded or downgraded on your alternative flights airlines also have to abide by strict rules.

You can't be charged any more for first class seats and you are entitled to a refund for lower price seats which is calculated on the distance of the flights.

But, don't forget:

Passengers are required to ensure all of their documents are in order and they check in on time to protect all of these rights when it comes to being bumped off a full flight.

In Ireland the Commission for Aviation Regulation is the body who oversee complaints from airline passengers and more detail can be found on its website or on

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