Can you be legally bumped or taken off a flight after you have boarded and been seated on the plane?

This happened to me seconds before departure because a passenger with 'Summit' status showed up. We had been boarded after waiting standby because (no fault of ours) we had been delayed on a connecting flight. This flight was 3 hours after or original connection departed. We were told that there was at most a 10 minute window before this standby flight that the passenger could show. This window had passed and we were boarded. Seconds before take-off the lady who worked the desk where we got our pass, boarded the plane and told my wife and I that one of us had to get off, or we could both get off - as a passenger with a valid ticket had arrived. They directed me to the bridge and closed the door behind me and the plane took off. I had to sleep the night in the Denver airport floor and other issues...but that is another story, and not my question :-)

Frontier has just confirmed the reason I was taken off was the ticketholder was a Summit member. I want to know if this is a breach or against FAA or any other law or statue regarding security, etc once a passenger has boarded to remove them this way?

  • 16
    You were a standby. You can't be sure you'll fly when you're on standby. Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 18:47
  • 2
    It's also possible to be bumped after boarding if there's a fault discovered which means the plane can't take the full set of passengers, eg not being able to take all the rows if some emergency exits are out of action
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 0:09
  • 3
    Boarding != sitting down btw. Often they only realize that simply people do not fit on the seats for whatever reason, and then for sure, they can bump you.
    – uncovery
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 0:44
  • my dad was once removed from a flight after the doors had closed. Gate was reattached, police came on board, and took him away. This was in Hungary during the cold war, he was suspected of being an American spy because of the massive number of US entry stamps in his passport...
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 6:36
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    @jwenting Police action is sure to have different rules... Scary story, though
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 15:58

1 Answer 1


The airlines ability to bump you off the flight is basically governed by airline's contract of carriage and Passenger Bill of Rights with a more detailed description on the US Dot's Air Consumer site.

The only thing that they describe where you are entitled to compensation for being "bumped" off the flight if the flight was oversold and you had a reservation, however, there is no such provisions for the standby passenger nor there is provision for delayed or canceled flight more specifically:

Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport; there are no federal requirements.

In this particular case Frontier chose a frequent customer over you though they were within their rights to cancel or change his/her reservation but chose not to do so.

  • 2
    While the context makes it clear that the departure was in the US, it is worth noting that for a flight to, from or within the EU, there are specific passenger rights, no matter the airline.
    – WoJ
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 12:23
  • 1
    @WoJ True. But Frontier doesn't fly to or from anywhere in EU.
    – Karlson
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 13:21
  • ah sorry, I missed the airline name in the question
    – WoJ
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 13:39

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