What happens when you are bumped off a flight

Ever wondered what happens when you are bumped off a flight? I've been bumped twice and each experience was completely different.

The first time was coming back from an amazing overland road trip in May 2011 that covered Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Read about that trip - here. I arrived at Johannesburg International Airport to catch a South African Airways flight back to Cape Town for the final part of my trip. I used air-miles to book this flight. At the check-in desk I duly produced my printed booking sheet complete with reference number. I also had a text message confirming the flight on my mobile phone.

South Africa Airways - image source timeslive.co.za
The bloke at the desk clicked away at his keyboard and then gave me back my printout and told me I wasn't booked on the flight. I can still recall how calm he was about the whole thing. And you can imagine how shocked I was. It was totally unexpected. And worse, this guy was completely unmoved by the fact that I had arrived with my bags prepared to fly and was now stranded without a flight.

He made no attempt to help me whatsoever and no real explanation as to how this had happened either other than I was supposed to have confirmed this flight in person somewhere. How was I meant to know this? Well he didn't know and I will never know. I managed to buy a last minute Mango ticket to fly back home and I have never flown SAA ever again.

Cape Town International Airport check-in
The next time I was bumped with my husband. We were coming back from London Heathrow to Cape Town on a British Airways flight in September 2012. We checked in early. Always do. The lady behind the check-in desk asked if we would be willing to be bumped as the flight was overbooked. At first we weren't that keen but then she explained that we would be compensated well, in cash, in the currency of our choice, or we could take slightly more money in flight vouchers. Plus BA covered all expenses relating to our night stuck in London. Suddenly, we were a lot more willing.

We had no holiday booked and planned, no family matters to attend to and no fixed business agenda. Unlike some very unhappy travelers who arrived to hear the same thing. We were given a voucher to grab a coffee and we lurked with our luggage at a cafe until just before the flight was due to take off. Then there was a mad scramble to squeeze people onto the flight. A few people who thought they were staying suddenly found themselves flying after all. And that's the thing, you don't know if you are staying or going until 5 minutes before the flight leaves.

Once the flight had gone, we all queued up while the BA staff found us space in local hotels and allocated us travel vouchers, meal vouchers and accommodation vouchers. That took quite a while and by the time we finally got to our hotel it was late.

British Airways - image source guardian.co.uk
The next day we couldn't really do much as we had to check in again for our flight back to SA. Turns out South African Airways had cancelled their daily flight from Cape Town to London. British Airways were the only airline doing a direct flight. So no surprise when we arrived at check-in and were asked to be bumped again. We figured we were making money doing nothing and so we went for it. And we opted to be bumped for a third night.

By day four we wanted to go home. Although BA take good care of you, you end up hanging around your hotel and then hanging around some more at the airport. Three nights was our limit.

One can't help notice that one airline is regularly overbooked and another airline canceled it's flight on the exact same route. Perhaps customer service has something to do with it?

Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.

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