Is Overbooking of Flights Legal in Europe?

Is Overbooking 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 ever been denied boarding due to overbooking? Is overbooking of flights is legal in Europe? This article will help to answer all your questions about flight overbooking.

We’ll dive into the 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.

What is Overbooking and How Does It Affect Passengers?

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 on the plane.

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.

However, this could mean a major inconvenience for you: you’ve arrived at the airport and checked in on time only to be told you are not allowed to board your flight!

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

Can airlines overbook flights in Europe?

If you were bumped off a flight due to overbooking and were wondering whether or not overbooking is legal in Europe, we’ve got the answers.

According to the EU 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 due to overbooking.

Who does the EU law 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 to an EU airport. Thus, 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 depends on the distance of your flight. As per EU law, passengers can receive compensation between €250 to €600.

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 financial reimbursement

When and How to Claim for an Overbooked Flight?

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 re-routing to the final destination or at a later time of the day with another flight on the same airline or its partner
  • Cash compensation of up to 600 Euros
  • Assistance like meals and refreshments

To make sure your rights are protected and get compensated for an overbooked flight, always ask for a written statement of denied boarding from the airline company. 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 claim 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.

In Europe, overbooking of flights is strictly regulated—because it affects the air passengers.

According to EU law, if a flight is overbooked and you are denied boarding, you have the right to compensation. But how much can you get?

Amount of Compensation

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

  1. Short-haul flights of up to 1,500 km qualify for a compensation of €250.
  2. Medium-haul flights of over 1,500 km but less than 3,500 km and within the EU qualify for compensation of €400.
  3. Long-haul flights of over 3,500 km that cross EU borders could be eligible for an amount of up to €600 in compensation.

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 alternate flight delays; and
  3. Hotel accommodation in case an overnight stay is necessary due to the replacement flight.

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 8th August 2023.

Claiming Compensation for an Overbooked Flight

If your flight has been overbooked and want to claim compensation, here is the guide to follow to claim compensation for an overbooked flight.

How it works

Here’s how you get started:

  1. Visit the ClaimFlights website and provide the flight details
  2. If you don’t remember your flight details just provide the departure and arrival airport to fetch your flight using their compensation checker tool
  3. Provide detailed information on why you were denied boarding, and was overbooking the cause.
  4. Get up to 600€ (minus their provision fee) per passenger
  5. And benefit from a no-win no-fee compensation policy with no hidden charges – unless they successfully settle your case with the air carrier.

ClaimFlights which follows EU law, can help you make sure whether you can receive compensation for denied boarding due to overbooking.


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. 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.

Fascinating Topics You Don’t Want to Miss

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn more about claiming compensation for flight delays or cancellations. Click any of the links below to discover expert advice, comprehensive guides, and useful tips on how to claim what you’re entitled to. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or just looking to expand your knowledge, our fascinating topics will leave you informed and engaged.

Petya Petrova

Petya Petrova

International Legal Strategist

Petya Petrova-Racheva holds a Master of Law (LLM) degree, and has broad knowledge of European Laws in different countries. She loves travelling and her dog, as well as her family.

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