Aussie tourist's 'absolute nightmare' after airline overbooks flight

The frustrating move left the woman 'in shock,' but it's a common strategy used by airlines

An Aussie traveller has slammed a "common" airline practice as "a joke," after facing what could've been an unfortunate situation while travelling back from her holiday.

Tori, 28, who is currently residing in London, rocked up to her $600 flight in Athens, Greece on Thursday only to be told she's on "standby".

Not knowing "what the hell" that is, she claims to have pressed the Sky Express airline staff member for more information, who casually said that they overbook tickets.

A photo of a plane in Athens, Greece. A photo of Tori's boarding pass from Athens to London.
An Aussie tourist, Tori, shared her experience of being put on ‘standby’ on an overbooked flight in Greece to London. Source: TikTok

Tori immediately called her travel agent to try and sort out a new flight, but was told by the staff member they couldn't refund her ticket or give her luggage back due to the "standby procedure".

"Are you serious," she said in her TikTok from Friday. "I literally had to just sit there and wait right until every single person boarded.

"There was about five of us standing there waiting and the lady comes over with four tickets because four people didn’t make it. She said to this one poor girl, 'sorry you’ll need to come back tomorrow'."

Tori explained how the unlucky person was offered a free hotel stay to catch the next flight tomorrow or a refund, but didn't think it was fair. "Such a nightmare," she said. "I can’t believe they’re allowed to do this".

Why do airlines put people on standby?

The practice of overbooking is "super common," especially on international flights, with Matt Graham, editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, explaining why airlines do this.

"It's basically a way of protecting the airline's revenue," he told Yahoo News Australia. "Especially if they're operating out of a hub where there's a lot of connecting passengers, as often the inbound flights will get delayed and passengers will miss their connections."

He said sometimes the airline will know if there's a large risk many seats won't be available and will let passengers know in advance, however that's not always the case.

"If their forecasting is good, they can predict the number of people that won't turn up for each flight and hopefully won't have to bump something," he said. "But the problem of course is when they get it wrong, and then passengers get bumped off the flight."

Australia has no laws on compensation for overbooked flights

In places like the EU, US and Canada, passengers are "entitled to compensation" on top of a refund or free hotel stay for situations like what Tori almost faced. However Australia has "no such laws," on compensation, with it being optional for airlines to "make an offer" to the passenger.

"The issue is when passengers are not given proper alternatives and not compensated for the inconvenience," he said.

"In the EU, it varies between 250 and 600 euros based on the length of the flight and the delay in reaching the final destination.

"If there's no volunteers, they can increase the amount of money, but if everyone wants to take the flight, at some point they'd have to eventually bump someone."

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.