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United Airlines Overbooking: Compensation for Involuntary Denied Boarding

United Airlines Overbooking: Compensation for Involuntary Denied Boarding
Jeremiah Awogboro
Written By Jeremiah Awogboro
Last Updated: May 24, 2024

The top ten U.S. carriers achieved a bumping/oversales rate of 0.30 per 10,000 passengers. While United Airlines has avoided the unfortunate 2017 Dao incident, the carrier still received 6 customer complaints for every 100,000 passengers in 2023. We don’t want you to fret if you were just bumped because there’s compensation for that.

United Airlines (UA) carried 165 million passengers in 2023, the highest ever, with plans to add 110 aircraft to the fleet by 2028. Involuntary denied boarding incidents still occur with U.S. carriers, mostly because of overbooked flights. Nonetheless, AirAdvisor is here to help you get adequate compensation for your troubles.

We hope you never get the bumped flight experience. However, if that happens, this guide will show you how to deal with it and the involuntary denied boarding compensation under the US and EU/UK laws.

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What Denied Boarding on United Looks Like and Why It Happens

The simple explanation for being denied boarding (bumping) is that the boarding agent refuses to allow you onboard. That means the flight will take off without you, even though you have a valid ticket.

An example is what Reddit user PM_Me_Juuls experienced. The passenger got bumped twice after booking with United en route to the U.S. from Croatia.

Bumping can occur for several reasons, including overbooking, security concerns, boarding policy violations, etc. Our concern today is overbooking because that qualifies you for the overbooked flight compensation. That is why our first recommendation to affected passengers is to confirm if they were denied boarding because of an oversold flight.

Overbooking happens when a carrier sells tickets to more passengers than the assigned aircraft can carry. For example, selling tickets to 100 passengers when the aircraft can carry 80 passengers is overbooking.

Sometimes, carriers get away with the practice as fewer passengers show up. Other times, the carrier will ask for volunteers, providing several incentives, including vouchers, to persuade them. Bumping comes when the carrier cannot find enough volunteers.

The United Airlines’ mobile app shows when cabins are fully booked. We recommend using it to avoid getting bumped on your flight. You can also learn more about what United Airlines offers in our airline review.

Did the boarding agent tell you your flight was overbooked?

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Regulations and Passenger Rights in Case of Overbooking

AirAdvisor is happy to help enforce your passenger rights according to U.S., EU/UK and Canadian law, depending on where you flew from. Whether United Airlines just denied you boarding or the incident occurred months ago, your compensation is still available. However, the terms vary depending on the flight distance and destination.

United aircraft cabin with passengers

United Airlines will not jump straight to denying passengers boarding involuntarily unless it has first called for volunteers. This standard industry practice can save you the discomfort of getting bumped. It can also be a way to get extra benefits from United Airlines.

Here’s how the U.S. and EU/UK regulate overbooking:

Involuntary Denied Boarding

UA’s boarding priority determines who gets bumped on an oversold flight. Passengers with disabilities and their service animals or travel assistants will be the last to be denied boarding involuntarily. The same applies to unaccompanied minors under 18 years of age.

Other criteria for determining who gets bumped include the following:

  • The passenger’s fare class
  • Status of frequent flyer program membership
  • Was the ticket purchased under a select UA corporate travel agreement?
  • Check-in time without an advanced seat assignment

The U.S. and the EU/UK allow United Airlines to use their in-house boarding policy and priority. Also, the carrier is fully compliant with regulations in this regard. The first primary step is providing transportation to passengers denied boarding because of overselling.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Transport on the next flight with available space at no additional cost
  • Transport on another carrier at UA’s discretion and the passenger’s request. However, this option depends on the alternative flight’s arrival time compared to a UA flight. It must be faster.
We assume all legal costs

All you have to do is submit the application and wait for the compensation to be received.

Denied Boarding in the UK and EU

EU261 and UK261 regulations mandate United Airlines to provide the following to its passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding because of an oversold flight:

  • A flight rebooking to your final destination at no additional cost or a full refund of your ticket.
  • Complimentary care and assistance in the form of meals and refreshments if you’re delayed 2 hours before your rebooked flight.
  • As much as US$650 in cash compensation the amount of which depends on the flight distance and delay duration.

Denied Boarding in Canada

If you’re denied boarding on a United flight in Canada, the airline must provide you with:

  • A new flight to your final stop at no additional charge, or
  • A refund, and
  • Food and drink, and
  • Up to US$1,760 cash compensation, which is determined by the amount of time you are delayed at your final destination.

Denied Boarding in the United States

US law requires United to provide you with the following if you are involuntarily denied boarding due to an overbooked flight:

  • A flight rebooking at no additional charge.
  • Up to US$1,550 if your delay at your final destination is greater than one hour. Also, compensation must be issued to you within 24 hours of your flight.
We work on a No-Win, No-Fee basis

AirAdvisor is happy to help with your claim, so you can avoid the stress of dealing with airlines and complicated laws.

Voluntary Denied Boarding

United Airlines will offer incentives if you accept to give up your seat on the oversold flight. The incentives include a check and an electronic travel certificate. Other incentives may apply, depending on what UA offers at the moment.

The electronic travel certificate is only valid for one year from the issue date. Also, you can only travel on UA or its designated Codeshare partners.

Your Other Rights When Bumped

We’ve covered your rights extensively in the previous sections. However, we’d recommend asking the boarding agent if you were denied boarding because of overbooking. You should obtain a statement in that regard.

This statement will help propel your compensation claims as it confirms the flight status. There is no need to worry if you were bumped and didn’t get the statement. Our AirAdvisor compensation experts will help check the flight status to know why UA bumped you.

United boarding

United Airlines Denied Boarding Compensation – What You Will Get as Compensation

The tables below show the compensation for denied boarding in the United States and Canada:

Compensation for Denied Boarding in the United States (Domestic Flights)

Delay Duration

Compensation Amount

Less than an hour


Between 1 and 2 hours

 Up to $US775 (or 200% of the one-way fare, whichever is less)

More than 2 hours

 Up to US$1,550 (or 400% of the one-way fare, whichever is less)

Compensation for Denied Boarding in Canada

Delay Duration

Compensation Amount

Up to 6 hours


Between 6 and 9 hours


More than 9 hours



Canadian passengers will receive compensation at most 48 hours after being denied boarding.

United compensation is available in cash, prepaid card, EFT, bank check, or a travel voucher. However, the travel voucher is subject to the passenger’s agreement.

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Any data provided to AirAdvisor to assist with your compensation claims remains confidential.

How to Claim Compensation When Denied Boarding on an Oversold United Airlines Flight

United Airlines should provide compensation immediately after bumping you off the flight. If that doesn’t happen and you don’t want to miss what you deserve, follow the steps below:

  1. Obtain confirmation that your flight was oversold if you are still at the airport.
  2. Gather all the documents that confirm your flight reservation. These include your boarding ticket, reservation confirmation, luggage tag, etc.
  3. Make copies of meals, accommodations, and refreshments you bought if you waited more than two hours after getting bumped.
  4. Contact an AirAdvisor compensation expert.

Exceptions – When You Are Not Entitled to Any Compensation

Being intoxicated or acting under the influence of illegal drugs will get you bumped without any compensation. Similarly, unruly behavior towards the crew and other passengers will make you ineligible for compensation under U.S. law.

Airline Policy

United Airlines will not pay any compensation if the following happens:

  • The flight is canceled. You can refer to the refund compensation for canceled or delayed flights.
  • The passenger violates the Contract of Carriage agreement.
  • The passenger is offered accommodation in a different section on the same flight.
  • You received alternate transport of equivalent class with an arrival time within one hour of your original schedule.
  • The passenger is a UA employee or another carrier flying without a confirmed reservation.
  • You approached the loading gate for boarding below 15 minutes for domestic departures or below 30 minutes for international departures.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I am not at the airport to receive my compensation?

United Airlines will send the compensation by mail or other means within 24 hours of your departure on the alternative flight.

How long does United Airlines take to respond to customer complaints?

The response time depends on the nature and complexity of the complaint. However, the US Department of Transportation mandates carriers to respond within 30 days.

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