You arrive at the airport and get the bad news! It is never a good time if it happens. There are some things you should know in order to maximize your compensation.
Airlines will typically offer a guaranteed seat on any flight to the highest level members of their frequent flyer program. That means they are going to be asking for volunteers willing to give up a seat. So that may be you?
The offers vary by airline. If you are a volunteer, it will be free tickets or a voucher for a dollar amount like a gift certificate. But many airlines restrict the way you can redeem those vouchers. So if it's a choice between a voucher and a certificate for future travel, we would suggest to take the certificate.
If you are involuntarily bumped from a flight, they are required to give you cold, hard cash if you ask. It will be up to 400% of what you paid for your ticket, with a hard cap of $1,200. That's if you are forced off the flight to accommodate a frequent flier.
That's when it's a case of show me the money Mr. and Mrs. airline!
Read more about your rights as an airline passenger at the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the US Department of Transportation.