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Involuntary Downgrades - Know Your Rights

Involuntary downgrades

Read our guide for those wanting to know their rights on being downgraded on their flight. This guide is complete with FAQ’s, tips to help you know your rights and regulations in both the US and EU.

Economy class ticket

What is an involuntary downgrade?

An Involuntary Downgrade is when a passenger's ticket has been downgraded. For example, when a passenger who is flying in the premium economy, business class or first class has been downgraded and told to sit in economy class. This can happen when the class is full and passengers who've reserved their seat using passengers miles 'award ticket' can be asked to allow passengers who've purchased the ticket with money to take their place. However, a refund of passenger miles can be given by the airlines.

According to Civil Aviation Authority, if your airline downgrades you to a lower class from the one you were meant to be in, you are entitled to reimbursement of a percentage of the price for the flight on which you were downgraded. Remember that your airline must compensate you within seven days.

Up to 1500km (short-haul): 30% of the flight price

1500-3500km (medium-haul): 50% of the flight price

More than 3500km (long-haul): 75% of the flight price

Woman typing on a laptop

Tips in the event of an involuntary downgrade:

  1. Try not to get angry at airport staff, if you don't find someone who is helping you ask someone who else.
  2. Note down all of the information about your flight experience and request a written statement from the airline.
  3. If after seven days have passed and you still haven't received a refund, you can write a written complaint to the airline.
  4. Make sure that once the airline has compensated you they also receive related tax.
  5. Remember to keep patient and calm and try to enjoy your journey.

US regulations on involuntary downgrades

In the US, there aren't specific laws about what should happen if a passenger has been downgraded. Airlines handle these problems individually and they do try to accommodate passengers as best they can, and usually will extend an offer to make amends.

EU regulations on involuntary downgrades

In Europe, rules regarding this are strict rules. If you happen to be flying on a European Union carrier and have been downgraded, depending on the length of the trip you are entitled to a refund of 30% to 75% of the original price of the ticket. You have nothing to worry about as airlines will compensate you in seven days.

Remember if you're travelling to and from Europe, it's important to ensure that you not only receive the amount of the ticket but also the related taxes.

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Involuntary downgrades FAQs

How do I make a complaint against an airline?

You can make a complaint with the airline directly, but also ensure to make a complaint with the Department of Transportation as well.