If you decide to go with the flow and voluntarily get bumped you are giving up your seat in exchange for some form of compensation (usually travel vouchers or cash).
If you are unable to go with the flow and are still bumped you are protected under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that spell out the minimum amount of compensation.
Here are some tips from the experts;
- When you go to book your flight, if there are fewer than eight seats available, some people will likely be bumped. Tip- Look for flights on heavily traveled days, but on small-bodied aircraft like 727s and 737s. Check out Seat Guru, which details the airline seating on all the major carriers.
- Interested in free tickets? While the free ticket sounds like a better deal and may well be, in many cases, the free tickets may come with many booking restrictions and limited seat availability.
- Free tickets also do not earn miles. Be sure to check on the compensation being offered before giving up your seat, if you are able to.
- Airlines are required to ask for volunteers before involuntary bumping occurs.
- If you checked luggage on the flight from which you were bumped, take measures to protect that luggage.
- Make sure the airline can guarantee you a seat on another flight.
- See if your airline is willing to find you a seat on another airline.
- Keep all receipts for expenses caused by being involuntarily bumped in case you decide to make an appeal to the airline's customer service department .
- Get it in writing. If the airline makes promises get them to write down the offer and sign it with their employee number.
- Ask for more. When the agent rebooks your flight, ask for an upgrade.
- Avoid using an airline that oversells too much and ends up bumping many of its passengers. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Air Travel Consumer Report has information on flight delays, mishandled baggage, overbooking of flights, consumer complaints, and disability complaints for the ten largest U.S. airlines.
- Avoid peak travel times. The most likely times to get bumped are major holidays, spring break, and at the beginning and end of summer.
- Fly nonstop or with the least amount of connections possible.
- Consider flying earlier in the day. If you do get bumped, you'll have more options remaining throughout the day to complete your trip.
- Avoid booking the last flight of the day.
- Don't buy standby or open tickets to travel during peak travel times.
- Arrive early and confirm your seat assignment.
If an airline involuntarily denies a person boarding, federal law requires the company to repay 100 to 200 percent of the one-way fare to the final destination or up to $400, depending on how long the passenger is delayed from the scheduled arrival at his or her final destination.