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How an overbooked flight made my day

This has been a terrible week for the United Airlines and even worse for their unlucky passenger, who was assaulted and then dragged off the plane by force. Now Easy Jet made the headlines with a similar story – without the punching and dragging. A couple heading to Catania, Sicily, were ordered off the flight when it was overbooked. The airline staff then failed to explain their rights or offer these poor holiday makers any compensation, set in the EU261 regulation. EasyJet had failed to adhere to the correct  EU protocol from the start, as they hadn’t looked for volunteers, who would be willing to take the next available flight. But I want to write a happy kind of story about an overbooked flight. Yes, there are those examples too, when the airline has overbooked your flight and they are still able to make you feel amazing about it. Let’s hope the British Airways practice becomes the new overbooking standard in aviation.


Volunteering when a flight is overbooked

I rushed to the check-in desk at the Manchester airport, UK, and dug out my passport. Immediately I was asked if I would like to volunteer to take the next flight, as my first flight had been overbooked. Before I was able to show an irritated frown and decline their offer, they continued that I would of course get a 400€ compensation and an upgrade to business class, which meant that I could use the BA lounge. Now they got my attention.

I asked if I was still able to make it to Helsinki on that evening, as it was already late afternoon and I had a connecting flight via Heathrow. I was told that I will be put on the next flight, which means that I can still get home on the same day.

This arrangement caused no inconvenience what so ever, but made me feel like I had just won the lottery. The reason I was so pleased was that I had booked a flight with a 4 hour waiting time at the Heathrow airport. The largest airports are probably those few places that can bring out the worst in me – the hoards of people boarding their Christmas flights, the queuing, the endless tunnels and just way, way too many people for my liking. Now I was presented with an opportunity to cut my waiting time at Heathrow and enjoy champagne and single malt whiskies at BA’s Manchester lounge. Of course I said yes.


Flight overbooked or delayed: How much compensation am I entitled to?


AMOUNTFlight destination & distance
Compensation of € 250 (£ 182)For flights of up to 1500 kilometres
Compensation of € 400 (£ 290)For all other flights within the EU
Compensation of € 400 (£ 290)For flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres from or to an airport outside the European Union
Compensation of € 600 (£ 436)For all other flights


What you need to know about this compensation rule is that if you are not offered compensation at the airport due to a long delay or an overbooked flight, check your rights online but do not leave the airport. Ask to speak with a supervisor and make the arrangements there and then. Besides financial compensation, you may also be entitled to food, drinks or refreshments, emails, two free phone calls and hotel accommodation in some cases. Especially if you are travelling with small children, getting a hotel room is good practice. The airline must also put you on the next flight, regardless if it is their own flight or if it’s another airline. Airlines can no longer use the aircraft’s technical faults as an excuse for extraordinary circumstances to avoid paying compensation. Unfortunately, they can still avoid paying out by claiming the delay was due to bad weather. 


What you should do if the airport staff declines your delayed or overbooked flight compensation


If the airport staff don’t offer you these and you meet the criteria set out in the EU261 regulation, save all the receipts for the purchases like refreshments, food and hotel accommodation.  You can still claim these costs back from the airline, as long as the airport staff had made a mistake and you were entitled to them after all. It’s still best to deal with the issue at the airport. And please, try to keep your cool at all times. The staff usually want to genuinely help you, so try to make it easy for them. It’s likely that you get better treatment if you are a likeable customer. Delays or overbooked flights are not the fault of the check-in staff, although they often get the blame. So how did my own overbooking ordeal end?


sandwiches at the Manchester airport VIP lounge


How my overbooking incident ended

In the end, I made it to the same connecting flight I was meant to be on anyway, so I had just bagged myself 400€ in cash and avoided the Heathrow waiting time. Instead, I chilled at the airport lounge eating through plates of those tiny, little sandwiches that were there to tell me “now have some more champagne and forget about that silly little overbooking blunder”! That’s how an airline should aim to make their customers feel, when the airline is to blame. I felt they valued me as a customer. And I did not complain about the business class upgrade either!

You can book your British Airways flight here. 

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