Airlines Bumping Passengers

What Is Bumping

Types Of Bumping

Voluntary Bumping

Involuntary Bumping

How To Volunteer Your Seat

What To Ask For Once You Have Benn Bumped



You may or may not be familiar with the term ‘Bumping’ but it is a term and a practice that is commonly used by airlines. If you are a frequent flier, you may have heard the term being used or you may well have been ‘Bumped’ yourself. It may be that you have heard the term and a not exactly sure what it means or you simply may nether have heard the term before. This page is designed to explain what ‘Bumping’ is and how it work in every day travel.

Bumping can be a really good thing for many people but it can be a complete nightmare for others. There are many advantages of being ‘Bumped’ but as with anything, it also has its disadvantages. So, what is ‘Bumping’?

What Is Bumping Passengers On Flights

Airlines over sell and overbook their flight and this means that they actually issue more tickets than there are seats available for a flight. The reason why airlines do this is to maximise their profits and this practice is much more common on popular routes. The airlines work on the presumption that on most flights, a small percentage of passengers will not turn up for their flight or will change travel dates. However, there are certain occasions when all the passengers turn up for the flight and this means that the flight is overbooked and there are not enough seats to accommodate all the passengers that have been issued with tickets. In these circumstances, the airline has to try to ensure that all the passengers who are booked onto the flight actually reach their desired destination. Obviously, they cannot fit all the passengers onto the one flight because it is overbooked and they simply do not have enough seats so they use a practice called ‘Bumping’. Bumping is simply a term used for moving passengers to another flight as a result of the flight being overbooked. This can happen as late as you reaching the departure gate only to be denied boarding, which is not the best news you want to hear at this stage.

Yes, even when you have a confirmed seat reserved and you have checked-in for your flight, you can still be denied boarding. However, this only happens when no other passengers have volunteered to be Bumped.

Types Of Bumping

There are two types of Bumping and that is voluntary and involuntary.

An airline will try to avoid Bumping passengers to a later flight but in some circumstances they have no choice and there is a reason for this. Airlines would much rather Bump passengers that have volunteered to be Bumped rather than randomly selecting passengers who may not wish to be Bumped. However, if no passengers have volunteered to be Bumped, then the airline must choose passengers randomly and this means you won’t be allowed to board the aircraft. However, it is not as harsh as it may sound because if you are Bumped, you will be compensated by the airline and this can certainly work in your favour. The compensation packages come in all different forms depending on which airline you are travelling with but they usually offer a cash refund on your flight, vouchers for future flights or a free ticket. If you are Bumped to a later flight that day you may also be given full use of their VIP Lounge, an upgrade to Business or First Class and if you are Bumped to a flight the next day, you should be booked into a hotel for the night, courtesy of the airline.

Voluntary Bumping

Many frequent fliers take full advantage of ‘Bumping’ and volunteer to be Bumped if the flight is overbooked. The reason they do this is because they receive compensation and other rewards such as cash refunds, voucher or a free flight for future travel. Voluntary Bumping is only really good if you are not in a rush to reach your final destination. If you need to be in a specific place at a specific time, then I would advise against volunteering to be Bumped.

Involuntary Bumping

If no passengers on an overbooked flight have volunteered to be Bumped, then the airline has no other option but to deny a select a number of passengers boarding. This practice is known as involuntary Bumping and one that is much less popular with passengers. Airlines will randomly select passengers and if you want to avoid being Bumped, you can narrow your chances in several ways.

Check-in online early or arrive early at the airport for check-in as the last passengers to check-in are usually the first to be Bumped.

If your airline offers ‘Advanced Seat Assignment’ and you pre-select your seat in advance, this can be very beneficial in helping you keep your seat on the flight.

Arrive at the Departure gate early.

Note: Most overbooked flights have passengers volunteer to be Bumped and involuntary Bumping is actually very rare.

How To Volunteer Your Seat To Be Bumped

Airlines all have different procedures and policies regarding Bumping but if you are booked on a flight and do not mind being Bumped, you can volunteer your seat should the airline need to bump passengers. Some airlines have what is known as a ‘Bump List’ which you can add your name to or you can simply inform the airline at check-in that you are happy to be bumped if required.

If you are wanting to add your name to the Bump List, you should ensure you arrive at the airport in good time and try to be one of the first passengers to check-in. This will ensure you are at the top of the ‘Bump List’ and will be one of the first passengers choose to be Bumped. If you cannot  be added to the list at check-in, you should arrive at the Gate early and inform the staf at the Departure Gate that you are happy to be Bumped if necessary.

Some airlines will make an announcement asking if there are any passengers who would like to volunteer to be Bumped. If this is the case, simply make your way to a member of staff and let them know you would be happy to be Bumped.


If you do want to be Bumped, you should ensure that you know a few things before you volunteer. Some airlines actually give their employees certain guidelines regarding compensation for bargaining with passengers. It is therefore essential that you know what questions to ask yourself and also what you want in terms of compensation.

Ask the airline what their policy is regarding Bumping passengers and what compensation you will receive.

You should find out when the next flight is departing and also if the next flight is the following day, will the airline put you up in a hotel overnight.

Can the airline confirm you on the next flight with seat assignment.

What To Ask For Once You Have Benn Bumped

When an airline agrees to Bump you, you will be offered some form of compensation.

If the airline offers you a voucher for a future flight, it is a good idea to ask if it would be possible for the voucher to be made out so that it is transferable. Normally the voucher will have the passengers name on it so ask them to put your family name on the voucher. This means that if you cannot use the voucher, a member of your family can.

Some vouchers may have restrictions on them such as not being able to travel on certain days or dates and you should check to see if your voucher has these restriction. Check to see if the voucher has an expiry date on it and if so, can it be extended? Check to see if the voucher can be used for International flights. You should also check to see if the flight you book with your voucher does not make you ineligible for compensation if you are Bumped on that flight.

As we mentioned previously, most airlines will have a standard package and policy regarding Bumping passengers and what type of compensation they will receive. However, there is nothing wrong with asking for a few additional extras. Whether you actually receive them is simply down to the discretion of the airline but as they say, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”

Here are a few additional extra you may wish to ask for:

Ask for a meal voucher if you have a long wait for your next flight

Ask for entrance to their VIP Lounge

Ask for an upgrade on your seat

We hope this short article helps you understand the process of airlines Bumping passengers.