My 23-year-old nephew and I were driving together recently and he told me that the day before, United Airlines had involuntarily bumped him from his Palm Beach to New York flight. Involuntarily bumped means the airline had too many passengers on the plane, either because of weight restrictions or, more likely, because they’d sold more seats than they have. This is a common practice since they bank on not everyone showing up … plans change, people get sick or they miss a connection. RELATED: The Travel Hack Hotels Don’t Want Guests to Know About

I asked my nephew how much money they gave him for bumping him. He said that the agent offered him $200 and he said, “Oh no, I know I’m entitled to much more. My uncle Johnny Jet taught me that.” The agent asked how much and he said $1,400. She said okay and wrote him a cashier’s check.

As I mentioned, involuntarily bumping passengers is common practice. What’s also common is that airlines don’t like to volunteer how much money they really owe you so the agent will either try to give you nothing or an amount that is nowhere near the amount you’re really owed.

The next day, multiple friends and readers sent me a short video posted on TikTok titled: “Airlines Really Don’t Want You to Know This.” Erika Kullberg, the content creator whose profile states she is a money lawyer and has over 9 million followers, does a great job explaining in a short time how to get compensated for being involuntarily bumped from a flight.

I’ve written about this in the past but since this video is making the rounds and Erika makes understanding it even easier, I thought I would share her video and transcript. If you watch the video (embedded below the transcript), you will see Erika plays the part of both herself and the airline agent. 

Erika: Hi, it looks like you bumped me from this flight I was supposed to be on?
Airline agent: Yeah, we overbooked it. Basically we sold more tickets than seats on the plane and to our surprise, everyone showed up.
Erika: What can be done?
Airline agent: We’ll try to get you on the next flight in a few hours but there’s nothing else I can do, sorry.
Erika: Actually, I’ve read the terms. This is called “involuntary denied boarding” and in this case, I’m eligible for compensation.
Airline agent: Okay, how much money do you want?
Erika: Well, it depends. When’s the next flight you can get me on?
Airline agent: It leaves in two and a half hours.
Erika: According to the Department of Transportation, since the next flight you can get me on results in over a 2-hour delay, I’m entitled to 4 times the cost of the one-way fare. I paid $375 for the one-way fare so that’ll be $1,500.
Airline agent: Ugh, fine. We’ll get you your $1,500 and I’ll book you on the next flight.
Erika: Do I need to pay for the next flight you’re booking me on?
Airline agent: Nope, we’re covering that for you in addition to the $1,500.


@erikakullberg What airlines DO NOT want you to know 🤯 #lawyer #money #travel ♬ original sound – Money Lawyer Erika

As you can see, this is a popular topic and the airlines don’t like to pony up the money but they have to if you know the rules so it’s important to read up. Here’s the direct link to the rules from the US Department of Transportation.

Under the Involuntary Bumping category they state: “DOT requires each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn’t. Those travelers who don’t get to fly are frequently entitled to denied boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash. The minimum amount depends on the price of the traveler’s ticket and the length of the delay. DOT’s requirements are the minimum but airlines may choose to provide a higher amount.

  • If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.
  • If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you, at a minimum, an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, or $775, whichever amount is lower.
  • If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the minimum compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, or $1,550, whichever amount is lower).
  • If your ticket does not show a fare (for example, a frequent-flyer award ticket or a ticket issued by a consolidator), your denied boarding compensation is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first class) on that flight.
  • You always get to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can request an “involuntary refund” for the ticket for the flight you were bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your inconvenience.
  • If you paid for optional services on your original flight (e.g., seat selection, checked baggage) and you did not receive those services on your substitute flight or were required to pay a second time, the airline that bumped you must refund those payments to you.”

Have you ever been involuntarily bumped? If yes, what did the airline give you?


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6 Comments On "What You're Owed If You're Involuntarily Bumped From a Flight"
  1. K. D. Morgan|

    Thank you so much for this advice. It will come in handy as the summer travel begins. But I wonder why federal regulations simply don’t require that the airlines offer the actual full payment that is due. Why are airlines agents offering these plainly inadequate compensation amounts when the minimums are higher? It’s like the agent is working on commission, where the less they offer, the better their job rating??? Sigh…

  2. Anonymous|

    So my flight was delayed from 2:30 p.m until 6:19 p.m does the same rules apply and i was flying to vegas to pick up my vehicle that was stolen and now because i cant make it there before 5:00 p.m its an extra 50 for after hours fee and if i dont make it before 8:00 p.m tonight there going to charge me another day can i hold them responsible for those charges as well.

  3. Phil|

    Really good advise! More people need to know this. If everyone knew this the airlines would stop overbooking.

  4. Chris|

    I’m curious about this, too. My first thought is that airlines pitched the idea of negotiating a deal with a bumped passenger that might take less. For example, Maybe passengers are entitled to 4x– the one-way fare, but Passenger A wants 4x while Passenger B might take 3x.

    A can make the flight and B can take the bump.

  5. Gil H|

    Does this only apply on flights within the U.S. and to and from the U.S. from foreign countries? What about a flight, say, from Italy to Japan on a foreign carrier? Or Italy to Japan on a U.S.- based carrier?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      It’s all based on local laws so not sure about from Japan but from Europe you have even more rights than the USA

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