(Adds Air Malta comments)

A group of 11 Maltese passengers wre stuck Athens Airport after they were told at check-in that Air Malta overbooked the flight.

Monica Micallef and her husband Paul told timesofmalta.com that they went to check-in at 7am but were informed at the desk that the flight was overbooked by 11 seats.

Flights were eventually found for eight of the passengers but three are still stuck at the airport.

“We booked the tickets for our holiday three months ago. We are very angry at the situation and still don’t know what is happening,” Mrs Micallef said.

She also said they may have to spend the night at the airport. Meanwhile, her husband said that staff at the check-in desk informed them they were waiting for information from Malta. They have been given a voucher for food.

However, they still do not know when and how they will return to Malta.

Passengers re-routed

Air Malta said it is currently doing its utmost to re-route the affected passengers on the first available flight on other airlines.

"Overbooking is a normal occurrence in the airline industry and not particular to Air Malta. The reason why airlines overbook flights is due to ‘no-shows’ when people book on a flight and fail to show up at the check-in desks. Unfortunately seats blocked for booked passengers who fail to show up remain empty when the flight departs," an airline spokesman said. 

These unutilised seats may be required by other travellers. In fact, flights which are not overbooked may result in many prospective passengers being denied an opportunity to fly on seats which would otherwise be unused, the airline said. Air Malta has a very low rate of denied boarding compared to the industry as a whole.

"In the event of denied boarding, the airline does its utmost to re-accommodate passengers to their final destination as quickly as possible to minimise inconvenience or provide a full refund. Air Malta expresses its sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused to these clients."