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Delta Overbooking: How to Get Compensation for Denied Boarding

Delta Overbooking: How to Get Compensation for Denied Boarding
Jeremiah Awogboro
Written By Jeremiah Awogboro
Last Updated: April 19, 2024

A Cirium annual report showed that Delta Air Lines was the most punctual in North America in 2023. Despite an 84.72% success rate in that regard, its overbooked flight strategy got a bump. The overall bump rate from the 10 US reporting carriers for 2023 stood at 0.30 for every 10,000 passengers.

Delta Air Lines served over 190 million passengers in 2023. With the rate mentioned above, there is a 0.003% chance you’ll get an involuntary denied boarding. You don’t have to worry if that happens because there’s compensation for bumped flights.

Overbooking is a typical practice allowed by federal regulations. However, Delta Air Lines must provide denied boarding compensation to affected customers. We’ll guide you all the way to navigate this unfortunate incident and come out the other end satisfied.

What Denied Boarding is and Why Airlines Do It

Most airlines typically aim for an overbooked flight. This happens when the number of bookings or ticket sales exceeds the available seats onboard. Then, the airline will drop excess passengers and provide denied boarding compensation according to federal regulations and company policy.

The first approach to overbooking is requesting volunteers for denied boarding. These passengers will willingly give up their seats for alternative arrangements or compensation. An airline will only opt for involuntary denied boarding when there aren’t enough volunteers.

With involuntary denied boarding, you can be denied a seat onboard without your permission or agreement. These unfortunate incidents still occur even as carriers get better at predicting the number of passengers that will show up.

Overbooking is common because most airlines believe that not everyone who booked the flight will show up. The primary reason is to squeeze out as much revenue from the flight as possible. Glen Hauenstein told reporters that Delta Air Lines is considering increasing its overbooking rate during its April 2023 earnings call.

Despite its push for more overbooked flights, Delta Air Lines only overbooks flights when there is demand. The carrier uses complex algorithms to determine when to oversell. It hopes to avoid a repetition of the 2022 overbooking that resulted in a $10,000 compensation to affected passengers.

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Regulations and Passenger Rights in Case of Overbooking

We are well-versed in federal regulations and have helped hundreds of clients exercise their rights. As mentioned, carriers begin with voluntary denied booking before picking who to deny booking. Even so, involuntary denied booking must occur according to industry regulations and company policies.

We’ll review the regulations and explore your passenger rights to avoid getting run over. Let’s see how airlines handle overbooking.

Involuntary Denied Boarding

Airlines determine their fair boarding priorities. They use them to pick who to deny boarding involuntarily. You fit into this category if you pose no risk.

Delta airplane jet bridge for boarding

You can dispute involuntary denied boarding if you’ve met the following conditions:

  • You checked in before the check-in deadline from the airline
  • A gate agent accepted your paper boarding pass or scanned it electronically and told you to proceed.

You have the right to compensation if an airline denies you boarding. However, you must fulfill the following conditions to be eligible for Delta compensation:

  • You have an approved reservation
  • Your flight check-in was on time
  • Your arrival at the departure gate was on time
  • You did not arrive at your destination within one hour of your original arrival on the alternative transport

Involuntary denied boarding may also occur when the airline needs a seat for the flight marshal but can’t get a volunteer. This can happen even when there is no overbooking.

Voluntary Denied Boarding

Regulations require airlines to ask passengers to give up their seats voluntarily if there is an excess. They will offer incentives to persuade those who can do without flying at that moment. Often, some passengers will take the incentives and give up their seats.

Here’s what to keep in mind while giving up your seat:

  • The airline must inform you of any restrictions if they offer a reduced-rate ticket, voucher, or free ticket.
  • Inquire about the next flight where you have a confirmed seat.
  • Inquire about amenities if you’ll need to wait a while for the next flight. These include free meals, lodging, transfers between the hotel and airport, etc. If these aren’t available, the cash incentive should be adequate.
  • Inquire about the validity of any ticket or voucher.
  • Inquire if the ticket or voucher can be used on international flights.
  • Inquire if the ticket or voucher can be used during holidays.

The airline will answer these questions before you give up your seat. You can keep your seat if you are unsatisfied. Notwithstanding, you’ll risk an involuntary denied booking if the airline doesn’t have enough volunteers.

Delta Air Lines provides compensation through its Delta Choice Gift Card program. You can pick gift cards from leading merchants, including Delta gift cards you can use on future flights.

Your Other Rights When Bumped

The US Department of Transportation requires airlines, including Delta Air Lines, to provide a written statement explaining your rights. That happens if you get bumped involuntarily. The statement will also explain how the carrier decides who gets bumped involuntarily.

You can also inquire if the flight is overbooked before purchasing your ticket. The sales agent will inform you if there is an overbooking or not.

Delta Air Lines Denied Boarding Compensation: How Much Can You Get

Regulations allow compensation based on the following:

  • The price of your ticket
  • The delay time
  • Whether the flight is domestic or international

Delta Air Lines plane

Delta Air Lines will provide a notice detailing its obligations and your compensation for involuntary denied boarding. Nevertheless, the first step will be rebooking you on the next available Delta flight to your original destination.

Here’s how Delta Air Lines will compensate you:

  • The airline will provide hotel lodging at Delta-contracted facilities. However, the accommodation is based on availability.
  • The airline will provide complimentary ground transport to and from the hotel.
  • Delta will reimburse reasonable costs to your hotel for lodging and transportation to and from the hotel. This happens if a Delta-contracted facility is unavailable and you book your hotel.
  • The airline will offer compensation of a credit voucher equivalent to a Delta-contracted facility if no accommodations are available. The maximum amount is $100.

The table below shows the denied boarding compensation as per federal regulations:

Fight type

Domestic Flight

International Flight

Delay time

1 to 2 hours delay

Over 2 hours delay

1 to 4 hours delay

Over 4 hours delay


200% of one-way fares up to $775

400% of one-way fares up to $1,550

200% of one-way fares up to $775

400% of one-way fares up to $1,550

Denied boarding compensation will be available at the airport on the same day.

Do you think you need compensation for the troubles from your flight boarding denial?

File a claim to receive compensation from Delta Air Lines.

What to Do If a Delta Air Lines Flight is Overbooked and You Were Denied Boarding

Boarding gate where denied boarding may occur

AirAdvisor has helped hundreds of clients with compensation claims. We’ve accomplished a 98% success rate with our clients. Hence, the best approach when denied boarding is to partner with us.

Here are four easy steps to claim your compensation when denied boarding:

  1. Ensure that the following documents are available: your boarding pass, e-ticket, luggage tag, booking information, and other related documents to your flight or alternative flight.
  2. Keep receipts for additional expenses caused by the denied boarding.
  3. Visit our homepage to work with our compensation experts.
  4. Provide all related documents.

You can contact Delta through its help center on its official website. Notwithstanding, compensation should occur within a day. Follow the steps above if that doesn’t happen.

Exceptions: When You Are Not Entitled to Compensation

Federal regulations make passengers ineligible for compensation under the following conditions:

  • A smaller plane is used for operational or safety concerns
  • Weight or balance restrictions are applicable on planes with 60 or fewer seats
  • A passenger downgrade in seating class
  • The flight is not part of the airline’s regular schedule, like a chartered flight

Airline Policy

Delta Air Lines’ policies will deny compensation under the following conditions:

  • You failed to comply with the contract of carriage
  • The inability of the aircraft to hold you after the substitution of equipment for a lesser weight under safety concerns
  • The aircraft’s inability to hold you due to weight or balance restrictions
  • The airline provided seating in an alternative cabin (you’ll receive a refund of the difference if you are downgraded to a lower class)
  • Delta has provided alternative transport at no extra cost with an estimated time of arrival within one hour of your original arrival time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Delta Air Lines overbook flights a lot?

The president hinted at a push to increase the overbooking rate of the airline. Hence, you can expect an increase in the number of overbooked flights.

How much time do you have to file a complaint for denied booking?

We recommend filing your complaint as soon as possible. Notwithstanding, the airline has 30 days to acknowledge receipt of your complaint.

How do you tell if a flight is overbooked?

You can inquire from the Delta sales agent if the flight is overbooked.

Can you get a refund if you are denied boarding?

Compensation is available. However, you must meet the airline’s criteria to be eligible for a refund.

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