An unexpected source of travel anxiety: overbooked flights!

Imagine you’re taking a major international flight.  You do the following things RIGHT:

1. Book and pay months ahead of time;

2. Show up at the airport hours before your departure for check-in; and

3. Be at your gate well before boarding time with your ticket and passport in hand…

And after all this, be told that you can’t get on the plane because the airline also sold your seat to someone else!!  Yes, it’s fairly common practice, especially during peak travel season, and it happened to me in Amsterdam with KLM Royal Dutch AIrlines while trying to fly home to SFO.

So what’s to do as you watch your plane roll away without you?  Have a nervous breakdown and wonder how long the airline will strand you at the airport?  Nope… here’s why.

1. The airline will rarely delay you for more than six-seven hours.  After talking with the overbooking “SOS Team” at the airport, it’s clear that they’ll only overbook flights they very frequently operate.  You either catch the next flight out, or you’re flown to a nearby city (in my case Paris) for a connecting flight home.

2. The airline will compensate you generously for your overbooking.  They don’t want to lose you as a future customer!  I wasn’t so stressed out when I heard I’d be compensated 600 Euros for the delay.

3. You now have more time to decompress, wherever you’re waiting.  The gate is now empty, you’re already checked through security, and those guilty-looking people up at the airline ticket counter will do just about anything to make you feel more comfortable.  Make a couple of quick calls home, count your money again, make sure you’re not behind on your dosing regimen, and go back into the terminal to shop and eat!