Overbooking and Your Rights: What Every Commercial Flight Passenger Should Know

Here's what PH laws say about the United Airlines incident.
by | April 12, 2017

In the wee hours of April 11, 2017, Facebook exploded with reports — nay, actual footage — of a passenger being forcefully offloaded a United Airlines Express flight from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to Louisville.

United Airlines removes passengers

This is how United Airlines treated passengers on an overbooked flight to reportedly make room for their own employees.

Posted by Mic on Monday, April 10, 2017


The bloody incident was a result of overbooking, or the common commercial airline practice of selling more tickets than they have seats for, in the assumption that people will either not show up for a flight, or arrive at the airport but for one reason or the other, miss their flight.

And while this scenario is rare and mostly isolated (except there’s another United Airlines incident that occurred because they needed to board a “higher priority” passenger), this brings to light a few issues: Is overbooking legal? And, what right do we have to refuse to be deplaned when the situation arises?

This practice is currently not illegal in the Philippines. But, Philippine law stipulates that when a plane is overbooked, the airline or carrier must look for volunteers willing to give up their seat. If there aren’t enough volunteers, the carrier shall increase compensation, i.e. the auction system, until more people volunteer.

Cebu Pacific does not specify this case in their terms and conditions of carriage, assuming it’s already covered by Philippine laws. Philippine Airlines, meanwhile, has this clause:


Airline flights may be overbooked, and there is a slight chance that a seat will not be available on a flight for which a person has a confirmed reservation. If the flight is overbooked, no one will be denied a seat until airline personnel first ask for volunteers willing to give up their reservation in exchange for compensation of the airline’s choosing. If there are not enough volunteers, the airline will deny boarding to other persons in accordance with its particular boarding priority. With few exceptions, including requirements to present yourself for check-in no later than 45 minutes before the approximate departure time and that you are in the possession of the necessary travel documents or that you are acceptable for transportation under the airline’s usual rules and practices, persons denied boarding involuntarily are entitled to compensation. The complete rules for the payment of compensation and each airline’s boarding priorities are available at all airport ticket counters and boarding locations. Please check with your airline or your travel agent.

Here’s a government-sponsored infographic that sums up air passenger rights in the Philippines. But we strongly suggest you go ahead and download and read the full Air Passenger Bill of Rights here.

APBR Infog_150908_1434-01-01



  • Janet M. Marciano

    Last July 15, 2022, me and my son were denied to board for our 10am flight with Air Asia due to over booking of passengers. When we got in the check in counter, their boarded passengers were already 179. If the counter personnel will allow us to board, their passengers would be 181, which the capacity of the plane is only 180. What fhey did? They adviced us (with the order of the supervisor) to have us board at 6pm.. Imagine? The airline don’t even gave us lunch or whatever accommodation that will please us. What a nightmare !

    October 28, 2022 at 4:38 pm

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