Delta Compensation for Denied Boarding?

Delta Compensation-Voluntary Denied Boarding


What Will Delta Compensate for Being Denied Boarding? TravelSort reader Sarah writes “I just checked into a Delta flight for tomorrow, and during the online check-in process I came to a screen asking if I wanted to be added to the volunteer list to take a different (I presume later) flight in exchange for a gift card. The choices were $200, $300, $400, $500, or a field to enter a different amount. What is typical compensation for a short Delta flight of 2-3 hours? And should I wait for a gate agent to call me, or is there a better strategy to be chosen while also maximizing the compensation amount?”


Involuntary vs. Voluntary Denied Boarding

To be clear, this reader is asking about what is typical for Delta when it comes to Voluntary Denied Boarding (VDB). If there were no volunteers to not take an oversold flight, and Delta had to actually force passengers against their will to get off the plane, this would be Involuntary Denied Boarding, and the amounts are mandated by the US Department of Transporation (DOT) as follows:

U.S. Domestic Involuntary Denied Boarding Compensation

  • 0-1 hour arrival delay: no compensation
  • 1-2 hour arrival delay: 200% of one way fare, up to $675
  • >2 hour arrival delay: 400% of one way fare (up to $1350)


Foreign Involuntary Denied Boarding Compensation

  • 0-1 hour arrival delay: no compensation
  • 1-4 hour arrival delay: 200% of one way fare, up to $675
  • >4 hour arrival delay: 400% of one way fare (up to $1350)


Delta Voluntary Denied Boarding Compensation

The actual amount that Delta pays volunteers who give up their seat varies enormously, depending on how overbooked the flight is (and hence how many volunteers they need, the demand side), the route and how many attractive alternative routing options they can offer volunteers, how many fellow passengers are willing to volunteer (the supply side), etc.

Delta Compensation for Denied Boarding


Recent examples:

  • $500 for a 12/21/18 ORD-ATL flight overbooked by 4; Flyertalker Jay00848 was able to get onto a flight via MSP that arrived 40 minutes later.
  • $800 for a Feb. 2019 SLC-SJC flight; Flyertalker CO-PLAT reports that two of the four volunteers were rebooked to arrive 4.5 hours later, and two had to overnight; CO-PLAT retained First Class seat on the rebooked flight.
  • $800 for 3/12/19 DTW-PDX flight; Flyertalker apodo77‘s First Class seats were preserved on the rebooked flight the next day, and Delta paid for an overnight at the Westin.
  • $1100 for 3/23/19 JFK-ORF flight with a broken seat, rebooked on a flight 2 hours later out of LGA in First Class, Delta paid for taxi (Flyertalker iflyalexair).


Tips for Maximizing Voluntary Denied Boarding Potential and Compensation

  • When checking in, check in via the Web site rather than the Delta mobile app. The screen soliciting volunteers for denied boarding compensation is on the Web site, not the app.
  • Even if you're not offered anything while checking in online, check again at a kiosk at the airport, as the flight may become overbooked closer to the actual departure time.
  • You can enter in your own amount, so don't feel that you need to select, $200, $400 or even $500. You can put in $800 or $1000, and you won't necessarily be held to the amount you put in, you can negotiate a different amount with the gate agent.
  • For a domestic flight, consider getting to the gate early: 1 hour 15 minutes-1.5 hours before departure, in case the gate agent arrives earlier than the typical hour before the flight departure.
  • As soon as the gate agent arrives, ask if the flight is oversold, and if it is, ask how much the flight is oversold by.
  • Keep in mind that if the flight is only oversold by one or two seats, you have less leverage, as there is more likely to be another passenger willing to accept less.
  • On the other hand, if your flight is significantly oversold, you're likely to have more negotiating leverage.
  • If the agent provides an opening offer of voluntary denied boarding compensation, consider adding a few hundred as a counter offer, especially if the flight needs a number of volunteers.
  • Be sure to confirm with the Gate Agent that you'll receive the same amount of compensation as the maximum amount they had to offer volunteers. So, even if you were willing to be bumped at $600, yet they had to raise their offer to $800 to get the number of volunteers they needed, you should also get the $800.
  • If you were originally booked in First Class or Economy Plus, make sure that your rebooked flight also keeps you in the same class of service.
  • Choose the AMEX gift card–it's the closest to cash, although it does generally have a 6 month expiration date, so use it before that date.


If you've ever received Voluntary Denied Boarding compensation for an overbooked Delta flight, what did you receive, for which flight route, and how delayed was your rebooked flight from your original?

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1 year ago

My husband and I had a returning flight canceled, and we had to rent a car. The Delta is refunding the amount of the ticket, but they haven’t said anything about the car rental, gas and tolls. It seems we are due more than just the price of the ticket, since the delay would have been over 24hours ( >2 hour arrival delay: 400% of one way fare (up to $1350)). Now that they are already refunding the ticket price, we haven’t received it yet, only a letter on 7/30/22, is it too late to demand the $1,350? thank you… Read more »