If you’ve ever been denied boarding, you’ll know just how downright annoying it is.
No one likes to be denied boarding so what are your rights if the airline refuses to let you board?
The answer mostly depends on two things:
- The reason why you are denied boarding; and
- Where you are at the time.
Let’s look at each of these issues.
Why were you denied boarding?
As the passenger, you are duty bound to comply with the airline’s Conditions of Carriage. These conditions include checking in on time and being at the departure gate before the flight closes. You are also required to have all necessary travel documentation (eg visas and a passport etc).
If you fail to comply with the airline’s Conditions of Carriage, they can stop you from boarding the plane. For instance, if you are abusive or threatening to airline staff, this may be grounds for you to be denied boarding. Similarly, if you are travelling to a destination where you are required to have a valid visa but do not have one, the airline will stop you from travelling. In both of these cases, there is no compensation payable to you – you were denied boarding because you failed to comply with the airline’s Conditions of Carriage.
Sometimes an airline needs to cancel a flight and deny boarding due to circumstances outside their control. For instance, a flight might be cancelled due to bad weather, safety concerns or operational issues. In these circumstances, the airline will not normally offer compensation because they consider the reason for the cancellation / denied boarding is outside their control. Similarly, if they cancel your flight but offer you an alternative flight which would see you arrive at your destination at a similar time to the cancelled flight but you decline this offer, no compensation will usually be payable for any delay you experience.
Conversely, if the plane is simply overbooked and you are denied boarding due to this circumstance, it is the airline’s fault because they oversold the flight and there are insufficient seats for all booked passengers to travel. Denied boarding due to this circumstance is typically referred to as “bumping” and in this case, you may be entitled to compensation from the airline. Here is where your location at the time of being denied boarding comes into play.
Where were you when you were denied boarding?
Provided you have complied with the airline’s Conditions of Carriage but are denied boarding whilst in the United States or an EU country, the airline is legally obliged to offer you compensation. The airline will usually move you to the next available flight and also provide compensation by way of accommodation and / or meal vouchers. Compensation could also extend to a credit voucher for you to use on another trip.
However, if you are in Australia at the time of being denied boarding, there is no such requirement for the airline to offer you compensation. There is no law in Australia requiring airlines to offer compensation if they deny boarding.
However, some Australian based airlines do offer some form of compensation in certain circumstances – usually a meal voucher and depending on the length of delay you will experience while you wait for the next available flight, compensation could extend to overnight accommodation and even transportation to/from the airport. In some cases, the airline will offer a credit to be used towards another trip. Credit towards a future booking is usually valid for a period of 12 months.
Each airline has their own Conditions of Carriage. These conditions are usually attached to your eticket and you should read them to see what if any compensation is available to you in the event you are denied boarding. It is also worth making sure you have travel insurance which covers flight delays. Whilst a delay is inconvenient, at least if no compensation is available from the airline, you can claim the unexpected cost of accommodation and meals from your travel insurer.