How to avoid getting bumped from your flight

Getting bumped from your flight is always at the back of every traveller’s mind as we wait at the gate. But there are strategies and tips that can help you avoid this annoying situation. Here’s what travel industry pros have to say.

Getting bumped from your flight - Mr & Mrs Romance

Think of all the things that can go wrong with your flight booking. From luggage being too heavy at check in to flights being cancelled; it’s a stressful process.

I even had my entire flight route cancelled once – not just that one flight, the whole route. I found out as I tried to transfer and discovered the flight company hadn’t told me they’d canned the route a couple of months earlier.

Getting bumped from your flight - Mr & Mrs Romance

Thanks to United Airlines and their fateful Flight 3411 where they forcefully bumped a passenger to make way for crew, the thought of getting bumped from your flight is more of a worry for travellers than ever.

However, global luxury travel agency network Virtuoso have conducted a survey with their agents to find out the best ways to avoiding, mitigating and making the most of getting bumped from your flight.

How to avoid getting bumped from your flight – intel from the pros

Prevention and mitigation

  • Establish status with a specific airline and fly it or within its alliance partners whenever possible.
  • Reserve seat assignments as soon as the flight is booked.
  • Check in online 24 hours before the flight to reconfirm seats.
  • Avoid sitting in the very front or back rows of Economy Class as these seats may be displaced in the event of an equipment downsize on domestic U.S. flights. The last row is often reserved for families travelling with small children as well.

Making the most of it

  • Insist the airline rebook the next available flight, even on another airline.
  • Comply with the request, but politely ask for more compensation than what the airline is offering.
  • Contact your travel advisor or agent for assistance.
  • Ask for a credit card-issued gift card instead of an airline voucher, especially if you’re not a frequent traveller.

It’s also a good idea to negotiate terms and get something in writing before you leave the plane, as things become trickier once you’re off the flight.

How to take photos from a plane window - Mr & Mrs Romance - Broome, WA

As part of this survey, Terrie Hansen, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Virtuoso, also explains why travel agents are so useful in situations like getting bumped from your flight:

“One of the key reasons we recommend booking with a professional travel advisor is the consumer advocacy they provide. With travel it’s not a matter of if something will go wrong, it’s when – there are simply too many variables that are beyond anyone’s control.

“Having an advocate with a vested interest in the success of the trip is invaluable. It might not prevent the situation from happening, but it’s certainly reassuring to know there’s a knowledgeable and well-connected expert to call and help fix it.”

How to take photos from a plane window - Mr & Mrs Romance - Yucatan, Mexico

Airlines gambling on no-shows and cancellations so they have full flights means there’s always a potential for getting bumped from your flight. Hopefully these tips will arm you with ways to stop or at least be properly compensated and represented if it does happen to you.

Thankfully getting bumped happens very rarely – and I doubt the extremes of the United flight will be seen again anytime soon.

If you like this post, you’ll love our 37 tips for how to fly in style.

Have you ever been bumped from a flight? Do you have any other advice for people worried about getting bumped? Tell us in the comments below!


  • Great piece and I’m already touching wood as I write this but so far i’ve been lucky and haven’t been bumped from a flight (touches wood again just in case).

    But I always factor in an extra day or even two if I’m travelling somewhere for a big event or to start a cruise or something like that, just to be on the safe side. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to jump on one of those cash offers to give up my seat 🙂

    • Reply June 9, 2017

      Mr Romance

      Totally touched wood too when I wrote this post, Amanda! 😀 We’ve never been bumped either yet, but I’m sure it’ll happen sooner or later. As long as I’m not on too tight a time schedule, I wouldn’t mind the cash either.
      Giving yourself a bit of margin for error is a great idea if it’s possible. And that way you get a bit more time away too. Win win!
      Cheers – Jim

  • Reply June 14, 2017


    I approve of this post just for the sheer fact of you having starwars as your movie!!

  • Reply June 20, 2017


    When a flight is overbooked and most are due to cover no shows and dupe bookings, most of the time passengers won’t know as they will upgrade people into other cabins (sometimes downgrades can happen to!)

    When you check in and there is no seat given that’s the point where it will explained to you that due to the flight being oversold, a seat cannot be given to you. You will be given a time to wait and if once the flight is closed for check in, the airline will let you know. If no seat is available then they will rebook/reroute/compensate etc etc. It’s the airlines duty to look after you and ensure you get to your destination. Most of the times they ask for volunteers at check in and enough people volunteer.

    Airlines do hold the right to deny boarding in these circumstances.

    It’s very rare that once a passenger has a seat and is onboard an actual aircraft that they are asked to exit. Someone has messed up somewhere big time if this happens. The passenger has a right to say no. And as long as they are not threatening the safety of the aircraft or anyone else then they can’t be forced. What they can do, is not take off until the matter is resolved.

    • Reply June 20, 2017

      Mr Romance

      Some great points, Jack. Definitely agree with you that it’s rare to be bumped from flights – mercifully. Touch wood it hasn’t happened to us yet – in fact one US domestic flight our seats weren’t together. We mentioned it to the guy at the gate (which is where most of the upgrades happen btw – not often at checkin) and he kindly upgraded us to the front row.
      For upgrades, I often ask if the flight’s full at checkin and if it’s not, I sometimes see if there’s chance of getting a better seat at the gate. Worth asking – especially if you’re travelling alone.
      Thanks for your comment. Seems like what you’ve said is right in line with what the travel industry is suggesting too.
      Cheers – Jim

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