Have you ever been hugely excited for an upcoming trip? Packed and ready to go? Triple checked that your passport has not expired? Only to find you get to the boarding gate, and the airline tell you there are no seats left on the aeroplane? A.K.A - Being bumped from a flight!
This happened to us recently when flying from Philadelphia to Los Angeles on American Airlines. We were starting our 30 hour homeward journey towards Australia when we decided to get an early morning flight which would give us the day in LA.
Unfortunately we made it onto the bridge, right up to the door of the aeroplane to be told we would be on the next flight 4 hours later - lucky we gave ourselves plenty of time before our connecting flight later that day!
I quizzed the American Airlines staff, who said it was normal that they over sell the aeroplane. According to their algorithms, there is a certain percentage of people who do not turn up for a flight, which allows everyone at the gate on the flight. On this occasion (and I am sure it happens frequently), the algorithm failed. We paid for a service, which American Airlines could not deliver.
If this happens to you, as long as you are not in a rush, it can actually work out beneficial, as the airline is obliged to pay compensation of up to 400% of your flight fare depending on how much you are delayed.
On over booked flights, airlines will start announcing over the loud speaker during boarding if anyone wants to volunteer to miss the flight and be paid compensation, but be careful doing this, as the compensation will not be anywhere near what you will get if you are involuntarily denied boarding.
We walked to the nearest currency exchange to cash our cheques with bitter sweet feelings, missing out on a full day in LA, but with our wallet almost being classed as excess baggage. It was not all bad.