Although airlines have the right to remove any passenger, TMA Travel President Steve Danishek says there are some things you can do to make it less likely you'll get bumped from an overbooked flight.
Danishek says since airlines are reluctant to inconvenience loyal passengers, "I would definitely sign up for a mileage program, even if you're never going to fly again."
Signing up is usually free, and it could give you an edge if one or more passengers must deplane because of an overbooked flight.
Airlines are also less likely to bump passengers who've purchased more expensive tickets. It might be worth paying for business or first class to get a little more peace of mind.
Avoid smaller planes, if possible. Danishek says regional carriers, often listed as RJ, simply have less room for extra passengers.
If you're on an overbooked flight, have a plan before you go on board.
“If they ask me to get off, how high do they need to go to get me off?" Danishek said.
For instance, If the flight staff is offering $800 to give up your seat, Danishek says it's perfectly fine to ask for more: $1,000 as well as dinner and a hotel room.
And request that the airline to rebook you on the next flight, even if it’s with a different carrier.
"Yes you can bargain. Of course you can bargain," he said.
Douglas Kidd, executive director of the National Association of Airlines, agrees and repeats that there is no guarantee you won't ultimately have to give up your seat.
"Don't argue, drive the best bargain that you can, and don't worry about it," Kidd said. "There will be another fight tomorrow."