Getting bumped off a flight sucks. Sure, the airline will give you compensation but it can really mess with your travel plans, especially if you have a connecting flight, or they can’t put you on another flight for several hours or even another day.
However, there are a few things you can do that will, if not guarantee you won’t be bumped, at least put you ahead of the pack.
Avoid airlines that bump more people
This one is kind of a no brainer but if you know an airline tends to bump more people than another airline, try to avoid that airline.
The U.S. Department of Transportation keeps track of who bumps more and it’s reported on a regular basis. Here’s their page so you can check, but as of this writing, the latest statistics available are from July through September 2019 (with a comparison for the same time period in 2018). And of all of them, I would avoid American Airlines 😉
Avoid peak travel days and times
A plane departing during a more popular time to travel will have a higher chance of being overbooked, which means a higher chance of being bumped. So Fridays and Sundays are worse than Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. Thanksgiving weekend is worse than pretty much any day in January.
Be a member of the airline’s frequent flyer program
Some airlines decide to bump based on hierarchy. If you have any sort of status with the airline, such as being a part of their frequent flyer program, you’re one step ahead of the people with no status. Here’s how to sign up for most of the major U.S.-based airlines’ frequent flyer programs.
Board when your row or boarding group is called
If you’re not there when you’re supposed to be, they may think you’re a no-show and could give your seat to someone else. So go to the restroom or get that bottle of Coke Zero before they start calling boarding groups.
Check a bag
If the airline has a choice to bumping someone who has all of their belongings with them vs. someone whose bag they’re going to have to search for, who do you think they’ll pick? 😉
Some airlines decide who to bump based on when they checked in, with the last ones to check-in are the ones that get bumped. Don’t be that person; check-in early.
Don’t buy the cheapest fare
That basic economy rate looks great but in many airlines’ Contract of Carriage, passengers who buy the lowest priced fares are the most likely to be denied boarding.
Don’t take the last flight of the day
Before airlines will bump people, they’ll ask for volunteers. There could be fewer volunteers when they know they’ll have to stay overnight. Also, earlier flights may have been overbooked or even canceled, which will lead to a snowball effect of passengers.
Get a seat assignment when you check-in
Passengers who have no seat assignments (either because they have Basic Economy or didn’t want to pay for seat assignment) have more of a chance of being bumped.
Take an early flight
As written above, the last flight of the day could be stuck with a backlog of passengers. Earlier flights are a clean slate, so to speak.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary