When you get on an airplane, you usually expect that you will be on that flight. After all, you’ve made it on and claimed your seat. But in fact, you’re not necessarily entitled to do so. Airlines have far more control than most people realize over who is allowed on the flight, and they have a lot of freedom to kick people off as well.
Neither bumping passengers nor removing them is illegal, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. If you violate one of any number of rules—or even if the airline just needs more seats—you can be pulled from the flight. If you’re kicked off a plane, you may or may not receive another seat on a different flight depending on the circumstances. AirportPrecheck.org presents a non-exhaustive list of reasons you can be 100 percent legally kicked off a plane.
1. The Airline Overbooked
Airlines regularly overbook flights because they know only a particular percentage of people usually show up to board. When more people show up than they were expecting, they may not have enough seats for all the passengers. In such a scenario, an airline is perfectly within its rights to ask for volunteers to leave, and then kick people off if not enough people volunteer. Luckily, bumping a passenger is one of the few reasons an airline is legally required to offer compensation. The AirportPrecheck.org team recommends making sure you know what your rights are regarding compensation if you’re bumped from a flight.
2. You Haven’tHaven’t Showered
If you get on a plane reeking of sweat and other noxious fumes, the airline has the right to kick you off the plane. The U.S. Department of Transportation lists “offensive odor” as one of multiple reasons why an airline can kick a passenger off. After all, everyone on the plane is going to share your airspace for the duration of the flight. If you smell so bad it affects the other passengers, it’s going to cause a problem. Although people are rarely kicked off flights for smelliness, AirportPrecheck.org recommends giving yourself a quick sniff-check before boarding.
3. You’re Too Drunk
If you board a plane while clearly intoxicated or on other mind-altering substances, you become a point of concern for the flight crew. Drunk, unruly passengers can become safety hazards mid-flight. Airlines do pass out alcohol on some occasions, but they rarely let passengers imbibe heavily. If you get overly drunk or show up plastered, don’t be surprised if the crew kicks you off until you can sober up and get on another flight instead.
4. You Don’t Follow Orders
On an airplane, the crew has final say over everything. When you’re on the flight, you must obey their orders—or risk being booted from the plane. Refusing to do things like keep quiet, buckle your seatbelt or put your phone on airplane mode will usually get you an earful from a crew member. But if you found a flight employee on a bad day or if your behavior is particularly unruly, you might be asked to leave. AirportPrecheck.org strongly advises you to avoid picking fights with crew members.
5. You Bother Other Passengers
Along with not bothering the crew, AirportPrecheck.org also recommends making sure you don’t bother the other passengers. If you become a significant nuisance to your fellow riders—like constantly banging on a chair, making rude comments or touching people inappropriately—the crew members may ask you to leave. The crew is also responsible for the safety and comfort of other passengers, so disrupting that means your journey may be disrupted. Make sure to behave respectfully for the duration of the flight.