There is lots of urban lore about coach passengers on airlines being magically upgraded to first-class seats, but less is said when it happens the other way around. But this does happen – a lot.

While airlines do not typically charge more for passengers bumped up, those who paid extra for a special seat have a case for getting something in return when it is taken away. Yet when it comes to involuntary downgrades, consumers are often left on their own to make the case that they should get something back.

As the height of the holiday travel season approaches, understanding how that works can help you avoid feeling cheated if this happens to you.