Is Overbooking Flights Legal in Europe?

If you’ve ever been bumped from a flight due to overbooking, chances are you felt frustrated and powerless. And maybe even a little bit cheated.

Knowing your rights and what you can do in such situations is the first step to feeling more empowered as an air traveler.

Have you been denied boarding due to overbooking and want to claim compensation for the inconvenience caused? Or are you simply curious if overbooking flights is legal in Europe? Either way, this article will help answer all your questions about flight overbooking.

We’ll dive into the current EU law on airline overbooking, discuss things that airlines are and aren’t allowed to do when dealing with an overbooked flight, and explore how ClaimFlights can help you receive fair compensation after being stranded at the airport due to an overbooked flight.

Stay tuned to find out if it’s worth filing a claim or not!

What Is Overbooking and How Does It Affect Flights?

You may have seen the news stories about flights being overbooked and people being denied boarding.

So what is it?
Overbooking is when an airline sells more tickets for a flight than there are seats available.
This way, if some passengers don’t show up, the airline can still fill all the seats and the flight can still operate as scheduled.

But what happens when everyone who booked shows up?

Well, to accommodate all passengers, airlines will deny boarding to those with the lowest fares or bookings made furthest in advance, given that they’re usually least likely to have paid non-refundable fares.

And this could mean major inconvenience for you: you’ve arrived at your departure airport on time only to be told your ticket has been canceled and you won’t be able to board your flight!

To make things better, the European Union Regulation 261/2004 stipulates that passengers denied boarding due to overbooking are entitled to receive compensation from airlines in certain cases.

Is Overbooking Legal in Europe?

If you were recently denied boarding on a flight and were wondering whether or not overbooking is legal in Europe, we’ve got answers.

According to the law, it is legal for airlines to overbook flights as long as certain conditions are met.

The first condition is that the airline must inform you at the time of booking (or in the confirmation of booking) that your seat is subject to being overbooked. Additionally, airlines must have a clear compensation policy for how they will handle overbooking and must explain the circumstances in which you can claim compensation if your flight is overbooked.

If your flight is overbooked, airlines must offer alternative flights or provide accommodation and meals until an alternative flight becomes available.

If your flight was domestic and within Europe, airlines must also offer compensation in addition to any other costs incurred due to re-routing. It’s worth noting that this compensation cannot exceed €600 per person.

So, now you know – it is indeed legal for airlines to overbook flights in Europe, but certain conditions must be met by the airline for them to do so legally.

EU Regulation EC 261: What You Need to Know

Did you know that Europe has laws in place that protect passengers when they’re denied boarding due to overbooking? It’s true; EU Regulation EC 261 provides travelers with specific rights and allows them to claim compensation for the inconvenience caused.

Let’s take a closer look at what the EU 261 Regulation is all about.

Who does it apply to?

EU Regulation EC 261 applies when your flight departs from an EU member state, or you’re flying with an EU-based airline. So if you were denied boarding due to overbooking, and your flight or airline meets both of those criteria, you can request compensation.

How much can passengers claim?

The amount of compensation you’re entitled to depend on the distance of your flight. As per EU law, passengers can receive up to €600 in compensation.

This is applicable for delayed and canceled flights as well — so if your flight was delayed for more than three hours or canceled completely, you may be entitled to receive reimbursement as per Regulation EC 261 guidelines.

Analyzing the Cases of Flight Overbooking in Europe

Have you ever found yourself denied boarding due to a flight being overbooked? Did you ever research whether this was legal in Europe or not?

Let’s break it down and look at the cases of flight overbooking in Europe. It turns out that, in Europe, it is strictly regulated—because it affects air passengers’ rights.

According to the EU Regulation 261/2004, if a passenger is denied boarding due to an overbooked flight, the airline must give them a choice:

  • A refund for their ticket
  • A rerouting to the final destination or at a later time of the day with another flight on the same airline or its partner
  • A compensation in cash of up to 600 Euros
  • Assistance like meals and refreshments until rerouted

To make sure your rights are protected and get compensated for your overbooked flight, always ask for a written statement of denied boarding. This document must include:

  • The reason for being denied boarding
  • Flight information (scheduled destination and arrival time)
  • The amount of compensation you are entitled to (if applicable)
  • Reimbursement details (if applicable)

With this written statement from the airline, you can make sure you are aware of your rights and seek help from a professional if needed.

Your Rights as a Passenger When You Are Denied Boarding

We bet you didn’t know that there are legal regulations that protect you when you’re denied boarding due to overbooking. According to EU law, if a flight is overbooked and you are denied boarding, you have the right to request compensation for your inconvenience. But how much can you get and what are the other rights available for passengers?

Amount of Compensation

EU Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 establishes several criteria to determine how much you can get as compensation:

  • The distance of your flight (short, medium, or long-haul);
  • The amount of time spent waiting to reach your destination if the flight is delayed; and
  • The length of delay at the destination.

Other Rights Available for Passengers

If you ever experience an overbooked flight situation in Europe, aside from requesting compensation for the inconvenience caused, here are some other rights that may be applicable:

  1. Reimbursement or rerouting flights depending on circumstances and availability;
  2. Receiving meals and refreshments during delay; and
  3. Reasonable hotel accommodation in case an overnight stay is necessary due to delayed flights.

Was your flight delayed? You may be eligible for compensation

Has your flight been delayed for more than 3 hours or even canceled? Don't worry, you may be eligible for compensation up to 600€ under the EU Regulation 261/2004.

Check if You're Eligible

We offer "No Win - No Fee" Services, so claiming is Risk-Free!

Which is the best company to claim flight delay compensation?

ClaimFlights is the best flight delay claim company when it comes to the payout after their 25% service fee. Through ClaimFlights, you could get 75% of the receivable compensation.

The following table gives you a direct comparison of flight delay compensation claim companies.

Your payout* (as Flight Delay Compensation)

For less than 1500 km For 1501 to 3500 km For more than 3500 km
ClaimFlights 187.50 € 300 € 450 €
Flightright 125.75 € 201.20 € 301.80 €
AirHelp 125 € 200 € 300 €
ClaimCompass 125 € 200 € 300 €
SkyRefund 125 € 200 € 300 €

* Source: Price comparison of flight delay claim companies, as of 27th May 2021.

Claim Compensation for Overbooked Flight – How to Get Started With ClaimFlights

If you have ever been denied boarding due to an overbooked flight and want to claim compensation, ClaimFlights can help. We understand the frustration of having your travel plans disrupted and our team is here to guide you through the entire process.

How it works

Here’s how you get started:

  1. Visit our website and provide us with details of your disrupted flight
  2. Accept our expert services and leave the rest to us
  3. Our specialists will handle all the legalities on your behalf
  4. Get up to 600€ (minus our provision fee) per passenger for denied boarding due to overbooking under EU law
  5. Benefit from a no win no fee compensation policy with no hidden charges – unless we are successful in your claim!

ClaimFlights is here to help make sure that you receive the compensation that you deserve for being denied boarding due to overbooking in Europe following EU law.


When it comes to overbooking, it’s important to know your rights as a passenger. The EU has taken steps to protect passenger rights, meaning that if your flight has been overbooked, you may be entitled to financial compensation under certain conditions. As a passenger, you can take advantage of this law to seek the compensation you deserve.

ClaimFlights works to make the process of claiming compensation easier and stress-free. We understand that dealing with overbooked flights can be a hassle, so we offer the expertise to help you get the compensation you’re entitled to. So whether you’re flying in Europe or elsewhere in the world, know your rights and turn to ClaimFlights for all your flight-related compensation claims.

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Was your flight delayed? You may be eligible for compensation

Has your flight been delayed for more than 3 hours or even canceled? Don't worry, you may be eligible for compensation up to 600€ under the EU Regulation 261/2004.

Check if You're Eligible

We offer "No Win - No Fee" Services, so claiming is Risk-Free!

We help in many languages - ClaimFlights International Websites