Denied Boarding

Official Regulation

Denied boarding occurs when a passenger has a valid ticket for a flight, but is not allowed to board the flight because the number of passengers is greater than the number of available seats.

Before any carrier denies boarding to a passenger for reasons within its control or required for safety, it must look for volunteers to give up their seat. Once an airline has found a volunteer to give up their seat, the airline must put in writing for them the benefits agreed to prior to the departure of their flight.

Any passenger who is denied boarding for a reason that is within the airline’s control and is not required for safety – for example, commercial overbooking or a change in aircraft due to scheduled maintenance – would be entitled to compensation. A passenger’s compensation would be based on length of delay at arrival at their final destination.

  • C$900 for 0 – 6 hours
  • C$1,800 for 6 – 9 hours
  • C$2,400 for > 9 hours

The airline operating the affected flight will have to issue compensation at the time the passenger is notified that they are denied boarding. The amount of compensation could be supplemented if a passenger’s delay at arrival is longer than was expected when payment was issued. If payment cannot be made before the passenger’s new departure time, the airline would be required to issue the payment within 48 hours.

After an airline denies boarding to a passenger, they must rebook them free of charge, meeting the same obligations as described for flight delays and cancellations below. While the passenger waits for their new flight, the airline must provide the standards of treatment described for flight delays and cancellations below.

Our Interpretation

Denied boarding happens for one of the following reasons:

  • The airline knowingly sold more seats than they have on the plane, expecting people to not turn up, but instead more people showed up for their flights than expected
  • The airline has to do a last minute aircraft swap due to safety reasons that has led it to have fewer seats than they originally anticipated.

In the first scenario, the airline will likely start offering volunteers airline vouchers valid for a year to encourage customers to change to another flight. In most cases, the airline will invariably find a customer as a volunteer and will most likely not require a passenger to be denied boarding.

The second scenario is where things get vague, and I believe, the vagueness in policy will help airlines get away from paying denied boarding compensation. In the unlikely event they are not able to find volunteers, they will be forced to pay denied boarding compensation, but if and only if, it was not due to a safety reason. Airlines will do whatever they can to claim this aircraft swap was for safety reasons, and proving it otherwise might be complicated. Arete Travel Hub has invested in systems to learn of the real reason behind delays and cancellation which we share with our customers, however, even our systems sometimes might be misleading or information entirely missing.

In the incredibly unlikely event a denied boarding occurs, and the airline is forced to pay compensation, the airline will have to offer the following compensation amounts:

  • C$900 for 0 – 6 hours
  • C$1,800 for 6 – 9 hours
  • C$2,400 for > 9 hours

This has to be paid within 48 hours of the passenger’s revised departure time and the airline must continue to clearly communicate their flight status with the above guidelines for clear communication.

It is incredibly rare for an airline to be paying denied boarding compensation because the airline has a strong incentive to issue a voucher amount greater than the denied boarding compensation cash amount, hence why it is unlikely most customers will be impacted by it.