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Ryanair Overbooking: How to Get Compensation When Denied Boarding

Ryanair Overbooking: How to Get Compensation When Denied Boarding
Jeremiah Awogboro
Written By Jeremiah Awogboro
Last Updated: May 10, 2024

While a few online travel agencies delisted Ryanair in late 2023, the carrier witnessed a 13% increase in passengers. It served 181.8 million passengers in 2023 and operated over 72,500 flights in December 2023. Nonetheless, the increased performance has not eliminated Ryanair's overbooking incidents.

Although Ryanair rules out overbooking in its policy, a former money editor at the Guardian had a different story. Patrick Collinson reported in September 2023 that he was bumped from his flight despite paying for priority boarding in February and checking in on time. A Ryanair rep who escorted him and other affected passengers said,


The overbooking problem was happening more often.

Ryanair used a different aircraft with eight fewer seats for Patrick Collinson’s flight. Even so, securing his denied boarding compensation didn’t come easy, as others have reported on Reddit. When filing your compensation, AirAdvisor is here to ensure that you file it correctly.

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What is Overbooking, and Why Does Ryanair Do it?

The shocking revelation by the Ryanair rep who escorted Patrick Collinson and other stranded passengers counters the carrier’s policy. Ryanair's notice of passenger rights states the following: “Ryanair, as a policy, does not overbook its flights.” So, while it would be prudent to expect Ryanair to overbook your flight, it doesn't always mean you'll be denied boarding.

Overbooking is the practice of selling more tickets than the flight’s capacity. For example, the plane has 180 seats, but the carrier sells 190 tickets. The carrier will deny some passengers boarding if all 190 passengers show up.

Like most airlines, Ryanair likely overbooks its flights to maximize profit on each trip. Booking 180 tickets for 180 seats will be a loss if fewer passengers show up for the flight. Some passengers may request refunds, while others will reschedule their flight.


Ben from the HBS online course delivery team pointed out that “it still makes sense for an airline to overbook,” even if we increase the cost of denied boarding.

The carrier must first request volunteers to give up their seats on the overbooked flight. Ryanair promises overbooked flight compensation in this case, based on negotiations with the customer. Involuntary denied boarding will occur if Ryanair cannot get enough volunteers to give up their seats.

passengers on the airplane boarding

Regulations and Passenger Rights If Ryanair Overbooking Occurs

The carrier has an internal fair-boarding policy in which it prioritizes passengers. Denied boarding should be a last resort to create space on the aircraft. The UK Civil Aviation Authority does not determine how carriers decide who gets bumped.

Our AirAdvisor flight experts have handled hundreds of thousands of involuntary denied boarding cases. We are well acquainted with passenger rights on UK flights. Hence, we’ll share some as it relates to Ryanair overbooking.

Involuntary Denied Boarding

Ryanair provides the following rights when you are denied boarding involuntarily:

The right to compensation only applies if the delay from the bumped flight exceeds three hours, and the amount you receive depends on the distance of your intended flight.

Ryanair might not be straightforward with the compensation package, as we saw in Patrick Collinson’s experience. Also, you must be persistent to receive a speedy response. AirAdvisor can help prepare your compensation claim to smooth the process.

The right to reimbursement or re-routing is as follows:

  • Reimbursement per regulations
  • Re-routing under comparable transport conditions to your destination as soon as possible
  • The right to defer your re-routing to a later date, provided the carrier can get a seat for you

Re-routing involves finding an alternative flight. However, your seating class should remain the same. You can only request reimbursement if your flight delay exceeds five hours and you choose not to travel again.

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Ryanair will not pay for an alternative flight on another carrier, even though a seat is available. Patrick Collinson received that response when he inquired from the Ryanair helpdesk.

The right to care applies if the delay from the overbooked flight is more than two hours, in which case you’re  entitled to the following:

  • Meals and refreshment vouchers comparable to the waiting time, provided it will not delay the flight’s departure
  • Two telephone calls, fax messages, telex, or emails
  • A hotel accommodation where one- or more-night stays are required
  • Transport between the accommodation and the airport

You can request these rights if the carrier does not provide them immediately. They are all part of the overbooked flight compensation.

ryanair flight on the runway

Voluntary Denied Boarding

You can say no when asked to give up your seat, and then negotiate the compensation for volunteering. To get adequate volunteers, Ryanair will attempt to make the benefits as attractive as possible.

Things you can negotiate when agreeing to give up your seat include the following:

  • An alternative flight under comparable transport conditions: Some carriers, like Wizz Air, allow flights on other carriers, provided the transport conditions are the same as the overbooked flight. Also, the alternative flight is subject to the availability of seats.
  • Reimbursement for the remainder of your journey: This can apply if the delay makes the alternative flight no longer viable for your intended travel plans.

Ryanair may offer vouchers to volunteers. Still, that doesn’t stop you from getting a reroute or an alternative flight.

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Your Other Rights When Bumped

The carrier must provide a written statement on why you were bumped. Sometimes, the reason is not overbooking but due to safety reasons or new weight conditions.

This statement will guide you on how to get denied boarding compensation because not all denial situations are eligible for compensation. We’ll see that subsequently.

If Ryanair does not provide the statement, you can ask the gate agent for it. Also, you can ask about restrictions on any vouchers provided for the delay.

Ryanair Denied Boarding Compensation: How Much You Can Get

The compensation in the table below only applies if the resulting delay from being involuntarily denied boarding is more than 3 hours. With that in mind, here’s how much you can get:



All flights of 1,500 Km or less


All intra-EU flights over 1,500 Km and all other flights between 1,500 Km and 3,500 Km


Ryanair will reduce the compensation by 50% if it can get you on an alternative flight and the new arrival time is:

  • Within 2 hours of your original arrival time, for flights of 1,500 Km or less
  • Within three hours of your original arrival time, for intra-EU flights of over 1,500 km and other flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km,

Distances are measured by the great circle method.


passengers boarding a ryanair flight

What to Do If Ryanair Overbooked and You Were Denied Boarding

The first step is to obtain a written statement of why Ryanair denied you boarding. This statement will help our AirAdvisor experts narrow the cause and hasten the compensation process. Here’s what you should do after getting bumped:

  • Assemble all your travel-related documents, including boarding passes, booking references, and other flight details.
  • Make copies of your travel documents and receipts for meals or refreshments incurred during the delay.
  • Contact an AirAdvisor compensation expert from the homepage.
  • Provide the travel-related documents and the written statement from Ryanair.

Exceptions: When You Are Ineligible for Compensation

You can get bumped for other reasons besides overbooking. Some of these do not have compensation. They include:

  • Unruly behaviour, including physically assaulting Ryanair staff
  • Intoxication from excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Behaving under the influence of a banned drug.
  • Having a communicable disease.
  • Downgrading to a different class on an alternative flight

Airline Policy

Ryanair has fair boarding policies for its flights. Violating them may get you bumped off the flight without compensation. Always review the policies before boarding your flight.

Expert Tips

  • Always ask for written statements when bumped. Verbal statements are okay, but not enough when filing your compensation claim.
  • Pick cash instead of vouchers whenever possible. Vouchers may expire or have other restrictions.
  • Ask the gate agent for clarification if you receive a boarding pass with seat number 00. That might mean you have a standby ticket with a high chance of getting bumped.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Does Ryanair overbook its flights a lot?

While the carrier’s policy affirms that it doesn’t overbook flights, the rep’s confession to Patrick Collinson says otherwise. Hence, it is safe to assume that Ryanair overbooks its flights often.

What can I do to avoid getting bumped?

The best chance is to become an elite or frequent flyer. Passengers in this category receive priority boarding. Also, arrive and check in very early.

What does “seat assigned at the gate” mean on my Ryanair boarding pass?

This notice can mean different things, from overbooking to using a different aircraft. It can also mean that an elite or frequent flyer made a last-minute reservation, and seats were reshuffled to accommodate them. Passengers with special needs and those who check in late are likely to receive this notice.

Can I make a claim for multiple flights on one EU261 claim form?

Ryanair allows one claim per form, even if the flights have the same booking reference.

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