WHY: When you "rent" a seat on an airplane, you have agreed to that airlines CONTRACT OF CARRIAGE. This document outlines the terms and conditions you're subject to when you purchase an airline ticket. This document, heavily geared to benefit the airline, includes a provision that an airline has the right to ask you to disembark a flight, even when you've done nothing wrong, if seats are oversold or otherwise needed.
How does an airline choose who will be bumped? All airlines differ, but you are more likely to keep your seat if:
- You have a disability
- You are an unaccompanied minor
- You have status on that carrier
- You have a higher class ticket
- Your itinerary will be compromised
- You checked-in early
- You are flying with a group
Therefore, you're more likely to get bumped from a flight if you're flying on a discounted ticket, traveling alone, arrived late to the gate or the arrival destination is your final stop.
Luckily, this doesn't happen very often. Most people volunteer their seats in exchange for cash, flight upgrades and hotel stays. Of those who are involuntarily denied their seat, the numbers are low, only 0.62 of 10,000 travelers fell victim to it last year.
If you happen to be one of the unlucky ones, remember that you are a mere renter and as unfair as it sounds, it's legal. What is TRUly important isn't how fast you get there, it's that you get there safe and sound.