Richard Fecteau

By Richard Fecteau

July 14, 2017


Overbooking: What Are My Rights?

Article revised on 20 July 2018

The reputations of airline companies were tarnished this year due to their practice of selling more tickets than the number of people they can actually accommodate. We watched as they expelled passengers using questionable methods,[1] or prevented a 10-year-old boy from flying with his family.[2] Let’s take a look at this practice of overbooking and see what rights you have.


The Canadian Transportation Agency explains on its website that “Air carriers often over-book flights (confirm more seats than are available) in order to minimize the impact of last-minute cancellations.”[3]

This widespread practice is not illegal. However, before denying a passenger the right to board, the airline company must first ask checked-in passengers for volunteers to give up their places.

If there are not enough volunteers, passengers will be bumped according to the boarding priorities stated in the tariff, a document which serves as a contract between the airline company and the passenger.

For example, Air Transat indicates in its tariff rules that elderly passengers or those with physical disabilities as well as unaccompanied children will be the last ones to be bumped.[4]

These tariffs are found on the airline companies’ websites. They also describe the monetary compensation for passengers who volunteer or for those who are bumped.

What are my rights?

Since we are already nervous before a flight, this practice can be upsetting. But there is no need to worry. Airline companies have been overbooking for a long time, and usually it doesn’t cause any problems. Passengers often miss their connections or cancel their trips. In addition, many passengers volunteer to give up their places, especially young people.

If you are bumped from a flight, read the tariff closely and ask for information at the airline company’s counter. Who knows, maybe they’ll offer you a better flight?


 The Canadian Transportation Agency indicates that those most likely to lose their places are passengers that arrive late or who are travelling alone. Here are a few precautions you can take:

  • Reserve your seat when you buy your ticket if this option is available.
  • Check in online, 24 hours in advance.
  • Arrive at the airport early to check in your luggage and get through security in accordance with the airline’s deadlines.

Where does cancellation insurance fit in?

Since it’s the airline company which decides to bump a passenger, cancellation insurance can’t help out much if you are bumped. Compensation must be paid by the airline company.

But still, don’t forget to take out travel insurance that is customized to your needs before leaving. It’s a must!


Get travel insurance that’s tailored to your needs!

Visit our website

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