Overbooking is when an airline books passengers to more seats on a plane than there are available. It is a common practice in the airline industry, and companies are legally within their rights to continue to do so. Although overbooking has caused a stir in recent years, passengers are normally willing to volunteer to give up their seat in exchange for compensation but it can also lead to confrontation. The experts at AirportPrecheck.org explain why airlines overbook flights and offer more details about the controversial practice.
Why do airlines overbook flights?
The most obvious reason airlines overbook flights is to maximize profit. Airlines use statistical analysis based on the number of no-shows in the past to anticipate how many extra tickets they should sell. Airlines aim to fill the plane as much as they can without having to boot any passengers off. Sometimes, flights end up overbooked because the airlines anticipated that more people would not show up.
Most airlines also overbook in order to recover revenue that is lost when passengers cancel and refund their tickets. Airline companies try to avoid overbooking because they don’t want the recovered profits to be lost while trying to compensate passengers that get bumped off of flights. Although only about six passengers for every 100,000 get bumped, the team at AirportPrecheck.org suggests passengers know their rights when travelling.
How do they decide who gets bumped?
In the case of an overbooked flight where passengers must be removed, federal law dictates that the carrier must first ask for volunteers to take a later flight. Typically, gate attendants will ask travelers if they would be willing to take another flight. If not, they will begin offering compensation until someone accepts the offer. The AirportPrecheck.org crew suggests that travelers that aren’t in a hurry consider volunteering to take a later flight and get compensated for their troubles.
If there are not enough passengers willing to give up their seats, the airline carrier decides who to remove involuntarily. Furthermore, federal law has no rules for how airlines choose who to bump from the flight. Often, airlines choose the passengers who paid the least for their ticket or who check in latest. The AirportPrecheck.org team recommends checking into your flight as early as possible to minimize your chances of being bumped.
How do they compensate the passengers that are bumped?
Usually, airline companies offer passengers cash, vouchers and other benefits if they volunteer to give up their seats. In order to avoid having to involuntarily remove passengers from a flight, airlines will begin by offering at least $200 in cash or travel vouchers to any volunteers. They will continue to increase the compensation until they have enough volunteers willing to give up their seat. Any passengers that are bumped off of their flight are also provided with a seat on the next available flight at no additional cost.
On the other hand, federal law has stricter guidelines for compensating passengers that are involuntarily removed from an overbooked flight. The experts from AirportPrecheck.org suggest that all travelers know how much compensation they are entitled to in case they are involuntarily removed from a flight.
- If a passenger arrives at their final destination within an hour of their original arrival time, the company is not required to offer any compensation.
- If he or she arrives between one and four hours, federal law mandates that the company pays 200 percent of the original fare, with a cap of $675.
- If the passenger arrives later than four hours after the original arrival time, the airlines is responsible for paying 400 percent of the original fare, with a maximum of $1,350.