Forum: Family separated, travel plans ruined after we were bumped off flight due to overbooking

Overbooking is a selfish business practice that needs to be reined in.

A few years ago, my husband and I had the traumatic experience of being bumped from our flight at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We were flying on Easyjet to Belfast.

We were not aware of the prevalence of overbooking and thought all was well as we went through the process of luggage checks and headed to queue at the boarding gate.

Our teenage daughter had already passed the gate and was on the tarmac walking towards the parked plane when my husband and I were stopped and told that we could not board, as the flight had been overbooked.

The flight later took off with her and without us. The gate staff kept us waiting and we were hopeful that somehow we might still be able to board. So it did not occur to us to alert them about our daughter, who was also hopeful that we would be able to get on the flight.

Any compensation was cold comfort, as we had to make our own arrangements to be on the next available flight. It was more than a day later when we reunited with our daughter in our destination city.

Needless to say, our travel plans were also ruined.

We have written to the International Air Transport Association (Iata) and the airline about our experience. We pleaded with them to consider either abolishing the practice of overbooking or to ensure ticket buyers are never caught off-guard.

We also suggested practices to raise public awareness, such as putting prominent caution statements on ticket purchasing portals so potential buyers are forewarned of the possibility of being denied boarding due to overbooking.

However, the response we got from Iata and the airline was that they would not do that because the number of people bumped off flights was, on average, insignificant.

We are saddened by the callous business attitude that was taken. People buy tickets to be assured of a place, not to unexpectedly enter a lucky draw. I look forward to the day when no one is affected by overbooking.

Serene Toh Soke Leng

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