I think we should have an honest conversation about overbooking. Why? Because a) there isn’t a topic like this in the IFC and b) Because it is important to talk about this. I have seen many people against it, many people for it. It’s time for a proper thread to talk about this.
I am a strong believer that in order to have a productive debate we must set our definitions and concepts. So, lets go.
What Is Overbooking?
Overbooking is the practice of selling more products than supply to fill it. In other words, selling more goods than supply. Selling more tickets than seats in the plane, in the particular case of the aviation industry. Or as the Financial Times puts it:
“Overbooking is common practice for the majority of airlines and is perfectly legal. As part of their business, airlines sell too many tickets with the assumption that there will be a certain percentage of “no shows” — either because people miss their flight, their previous flight is delayed or they have a change of travel plans.”
Is Overbooking Legal?
Yes, it is legal. In most countries it is legal. Some countries have more regulations than others, but the point is that is legal and has been done for decades.
And yes, you can be involuntarily denied boarding. You must be compensated though. More on that later.
Why Do Airlines Do It?
As the FT quote shows above, it is part of their business strategy. Economics. There is always a percentage of people that will not show up, or at least that’s what airlines assume. Here are two videos that are informative and crucial when talking about this:
What Happens If Everyone Shows Up?
First of all, thanks to the power of math and clever economics this is uncommon. However, if it happens there is a difference in the way airlines must deal with it. As said above, you must be offered compensation. Again, as said by the Financial Times:
"In US law, compensation for passengers can be up to $1,350. According to the Department of Transportation, airlines have the right to involuntarily deny boarding but have to provide some compensation to the customer for this.
In the EU, similar rules apply. The airline should first ask if there are passengers who are willing to give up their seats for compensation. If there are not enough volunteers, the airline is obliged to financially compensate those denied boarding against their will."
Airlines will offer compensation. This might be a hotel stay, travel voucher, cash, rebooking, or other. Airlines also make sure that the passenger gets to his/her destination in a timely fashion.
Do All Airlines Overbook?
The vast majority does. There are some that don’t, like JetBlue, but major carriers like Delta, AA, United, Southwest and other do. Refer to these articles for more:
Keep in mind that these are just news sources. Feel free to do more research if you want.
Now that we have our facts straight, time for the conversation.
This thread is to have an honest conversation about overbooking. What do you think about it? Should it be legal? Is it right? To what extent is it right? Does it impact what airlines you choose? Should it be regulated?
It would be appreciated if you support your position with arguments. I think I speak for most when I say that saying “it’s just my opinion” is not very compelling or useful. You are still free to have an opinion, but maybe think it out before. Especially when it comes to a controversial topic like this.
I do think it should be legal, and am all for it. As shown by sources above, it is unlikely you will have to abandon the flight. And if you do, you get a compensation.
It makes more money for airlines and that makes it better for all of us, ultimately. I wouldn’t base my airline of choice on this.
It should go without saying that this topic must stay on topic, productive, civilized, mature and interesting for it to remain open. Don’t post off-topic comments, and remember to be respectful with both people you agree with and with whom you don’t.
Okay now. Post your thoughts below!