If you’ve ever been bumped from a flight, it probably ranks high on your list of biggest travel headaches. That may be why a recent TikTok detailing how passengers can get compensation for being bumped has racked up millions of views.
The passenger ultimately secures $1,000 from the airline because the next available flight is not for several hours. The video from late December has nearly 40 million views as of Monday.
Kullberg told The Washington Post in an email that her followers had been asking for more air-travel-related content and that she is glad people are “becoming more aware of the fine print,” which she aims to make more accessible. This TikTok came in the midst of airline chaos as travelers deal with thousands of daily flight cancellations.
“I get messages every day on Instagram from people who have successfully used one of my ‘hacks’ and it’s rewarding to see that,” she said. Kullberg has over 7 million followers.
But just like everything else, there’s fine print with this TikTok: Not everyone who gets bumped is eligible for this type of compensation.
Many airlines routinely overbook flights to make up for customers who don’t show, which can result in travelers being bumped when there are more passengers than seats. Carriers must first ask for volunteers to give up their spots for compensation before bumping anyone involuntarily, according to the Department of Transportation, and often offer incentives such as cash and vouchers.
If there are not enough volunteers and you are bumped, the airline owes you compensation if you have a confirmed reservation, checked in and got to the gate on time and the airline is unable to get you to your destination within an hour of the flight’s initial arrival time.
Zach Griff, senior reporter at the Points Guy, noted that airlines must follow these regulations as laid out by DOT. “So, just to dispel any rumor that one airline is going to go give you $10,000 and one’s going to give you five, that’s just not the way it works, especially because it’s within the confines of the Department of Transportation policy,” he said.
Compensation varies by the price of your ticket, how long your arrival is delayed and whether you booked a domestic trip or an international flight departing from the United States.
With a delayed arrival of one to two hours, domestic passengers can get 200 percent of their one-way fare, which the airlines can cap at $775, according to the DOT. A delayed arrival of more than two hours means they are owed 400 percent of their one-way fare, with airlines able to limit that to $1,550.
Passengers on international flights leaving from the United States can collect 200 percent of their one-way fare if their arrival is delayed between one and four hours, and 400 percent if the arrival delay is over four hours, with airlines able to cap compensation at the same amounts.
Following a bumping, airlines have to offer payouts to travelers at the airport that day.
But passengers are not eligible in a number of scenarios, including when airlines change planes and substitute a larger aircraft for a smaller one than planned, when bumped to meet weight or balance restrictions on planes with 60 seats or fewer or on charter flights, according to the Transportation Department.
Travelers booked on planes carrying fewer than 30 passengers or those downgraded from a higher seating class are not eligible either, though the latter can get a refund for the price difference.
Passengers on international flights to the United States are also not eligible, the instance Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, said is the most common, though airlines may voluntarily offer compensation. The European Union also has separate rules regarding denied boarding compensation on flights departing from member states, which do apply to those landing in the United States, Keyes said.
Keyes noted that airlines sometimes give compensation to those bumped who are not eligible, or they go beyond what they are required to pay.
“They don’t always only do the bare minimum,” he said.
Kullberg, for her part, said she intended to introduce viewers to the idea, and she did not have time to go into every possible scenario in the short video.
Keyes emphasized that involuntary bumps are rare, because airlines have gotten particularly good at getting people to willingly give up their seats.
“Most travelers are going to go their entire lives and never be involuntarily denied boarding,” he said.
He added that there is a “hidden menu” of incentives to offer passengers when airlines are looking for volunteers to bump. “You know, when they’re [saying], ‘Hey, we need a volunteer, we’re offering a $500 credit,’ but that’s not the only thing at play,” he said.
Passengers can bargain for more compensation or other perks such as meal vouchers, lounge passes, or a better seat on your replacement flight.