Michelle Singletary: Airlines have the right to bump you, so don’t get carried away

Gene J. Puskar, AP

Michelle Singletary reviews the “fly rights” from the Department of Transportation.

WASHINGTON — As if flying weren’t stressful enough, now some passengers may be worried about being dragged off a flight.

If you fly frequently, as I do, you become accustomed to overbooked flights. It’s a standard practice for airlines because history shows some people don’t show up for whatever reason.

When everyone does come to claim a seat, the bargaining and begging begin. I’ve been on flights when people rush to the counter to give up a seat for compensation or a free flight in the future as soon as an overbooking situation occurs — problem solved.

But recently, all of us were reminded yet again why the fine print matters. And that flying increasingly divides the haves from the have-nots.

Take boarding for example. There is a pecking order of who gets to board first that at times makes me feel like a peasant with my lowly, economy class ticket — minus a premium seat upgrade with its teeny extra leg room. You stand there as a crew member goes through a long shout-out to the privileged passengers — First Class, platinum, gold, diamond, ruby, sapphire, silver or whatever.

Boarding first has become an economic issue. People push and shove to get a better boarding spot even within their groups (guilty!). You want to board as early as possible to nab an overhead bin, because you’re trying to save money by avoiding the add-on fee for checked luggage.

We passengers were also recently reminded that in certain situations we aren’t guaranteed the seat we paid for on a particular flight.

When airlines have overbooked and can’t get enough volunteers to give up their seats, they can kick you off involuntarily….

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