Compensation for flights overbooked by American Airlines: When to be entitled to compensation?

Recent mishaps involving overbooked passengers in the United States have once again highlighted this common airline practice. Although perfectly legal, it is nonetheless regulated. American Airlines or any other airline therefore have certain obligations towards the passengers concerned.

Soon the holidays and the realization of your desires of escape by an air trip, but be careful, buying a plane ticket does not guarantee a seat on a flight. Blame it on overbooking or overbooking, a practice used by all airlines.

Overbooking what is it?

The technique of overbooking – or overbooking – consists of selling more tickets than seats available on the plane. Airlines have in fact statistically calculated that on each flight, a small percentage of passengers do not show up at the boarding gate on the day of departure (nearly 5% of passengers cancel a trip each year).

Counting on these cancellations, airlines use overbooking, more or less depending on the time of day, in order to optimize the filling of the aircraft and thus recoup their costs.

Is it legal?

Overbooking is completely legal and used by all airlines, but on condition that users’ rights are respected, resulting from regulation n ° 261/204 of the European Parliament of 11 February 2004 which strictly regulates this practice and provides for the compensation of passengers.

Should you be compensated?

Of course, the American carrier must reimburse you for your ticket if you do not want or cannot wait for the next flight.

But in the event of overbooking, the company must first make a call for volunteers among the passengers, before boarding, during check-in for example. The American airline operator must then bear all the costs relating to the postponement of the flight (ticket, catering, accommodation) and offer compensation to the passenger. The amount of this compensation will vary depending on the company, which can adapt these rules to its commercial policy (purchase vouchers for example) and can be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

This compensation should take place not only when the contract of carriage has been concluded directly between the passenger and the air carrier, but also when this contract has been concluded through a third party, such as an online travel agency.

What happens if you refuse?

If there are no volunteers, the company can then deny boarding to supernumerary passengers.
This is most often done at the check-in stage and not once on the plane. In this context, a fixed compensation is provided for the passenger. The 2004 European regulation fixes the amount which varies from 250 to 600 euros depending on the distance of the flight.

But only 10% of eligible air passengers assert their right to compensation each year, as airlines too rarely disclose this right and do not always disseminate information about remedies in case of overbooking, delay or cancellation of flight.

However, when boarding is denied, the air carrier must give you a written notice indicating the terms and conditions for claiming compensation.

Can you be kicked off the plane if you’ve already boarded?

Yes, and in the event of overbooking, the company will find it difficult to hide behind the excuse of extraordinary circumstances which alone could exonerate it from its liability.

Your rights when traveling within the European Union

The European Community has adopted several regulations in order to protect consumers, in particular Regulation No. 261/2004 of 11 February 2004. It applies to so-called “European” flights, that is to say those which take off from an airport. located in the European Union (EU), regardless of the airline, or those taking off to the EU from a non-member state, provided the airline is European.

In the latter case, the regulations apply even when the flight involves a stopover outside the European Union. In the case of a Paris-Bangkok trip with a stopover in Doha, for example, the regulations will apply even if the delay is attributable to the second flight (Doha-Bangkok).

When a flight is overbooked, the company is first obliged to call on volunteers. If you volunteer, you have the choice between reimbursing your ticket or re-routing the company to your destination as soon as possible. You can also negotiate compensation with the airline and additional services (meals in the event of a long wait, hotel, etc.).

If there are no volunteers or their number is insufficient, the company may ask passengers to change flights. Usually, she chooses to deny boarding to the last passengers arriving at the boarding gate or to draw lots for the unfortunate ones. If this happens to you, you can choose to cancel your trip or be re-routed on another flight, under the same conditions as if you had volunteered. On top of that, EU law requires the carrier to offer you refreshments and the option of dining while waiting for the next flight, or even accommodation if the wait is at least one night. Two phone calls should also be offered to you.

In this situation, compensation is also compulsory and does not suffer from any exception (companies cannot invoke an “exceptional circumstance). The compensation amounts are identical to those for the delay and the cancellation:
250 euros per passenger for flights of less than 1,500 km. This amount is reduced to 125 euros if you are transferred to a flight arriving at your destination less than 2 hours late compared to the flight initially planned;
400 euros per passenger for journeys between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometers and for all intra-Community flights over 1,500 kilometers (which includes flights to overseas departments and territories). This amount is reduced to 200 Euros if you are transferred to a flight arriving at your destination less than 3 hours late compared to the flight initially planned;
600 euros per passenger for flights over 3,500 km. Amount reduced to 300 euros if you arrive at your destination less than 4 hours after the initially scheduled time.

American Airlines is obliged to compensate you in cash or by any other means of payment (check, bank transfer, etc.). It can only pay you in the form of a credit note or voucher with your written consent. In this case, negotiate a little extra.

When boarding is denied, the American company must give you a written notice indicating the terms and conditions for claiming compensation. You must then send a complaint (by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt) to the company, the contact details of which must appear on the notice given to you.

If the company refuses to compensate you, you should turn to a compensation startup that offers both an electronic claim service and solution.

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