Overbooking is not only prohibited by the airlines, it’s considered illegal by some states. Still, it’s been happening for decades. Here’s how airlines overbook flights so that more seats are available for those who need them.
Airlines use a lottery system to determine how many seats are needed on each airline aircraft. For every flight booked, about one seat is left vacant. Of course, in the old days, most flights were one-ways and very few seats remained unsold. It was impossible to fill up all available seats.
Today, as fewer people fly one-ways than ever before, airlines can still fill more seats on each flight by under-booking the aircraft. So the airlines have to pick from the remaining seats they have. They choose to over-book flights with a higher percentage of empty seats because they want to offer as many people on those seats as possible.
If an airline is able to find enough seats for every one of its passengers, they simply don’t have room for any additional customers. So the airline will fill up the plane as much as possible and the more seats it can fit on the plane, the more seats it can offer.
As a result, the airlines sometimes have to turn away flyers who try to catch a later flight. Other times, they simply have to add seats, so that they have plenty of seats for people who’ve made bookings and will be arriving at the same time.
Airlines make the choices as they need to. They don’t try to force people to take a flight that they don’t need. But there are some passengers who try to create problems so that they can get discounted seats that aren’t really necessary.
These people are the ones who insist on boarding at the last minute or try to sneak onto the plane during the boarding process to try to get on the flight. They often have a limited budget and would rather get a discount than use the flight to the destination they intended. They have no intention of using the flight, but they think they can get a better deal by saying they did.
The airlines are very good at knowing when this kind of behavior occurs and they respond appropriately. They call the police and they escort the passengers off the plane, so that the problem isn’t repeated. As a result, when a flight is full, the passengers feel more comfortable being cooperative.
Some travelers want to get on a flight that has plenty of empty seats so that they can get a seat on a full flight instead of getting bumped from a full flight. So if you can avoid over-booking, there is a very good chance that you’ll be able to do so.
If you don’t want to be in the same situation as those who have already had to travel on a full flight that was over-booked, try to book an early flight. Try booking a flight that has less than two weeks left until departure. That may be easier for you to get on that flight.
It should be noted that most airlines will try to fill up a flight as much as possible. They will do whatever they can to ensure that every passenger on board their plane is happy. If that means turning away travelers who weren’t in any way responsible for creating the problem, so be it.
If you are the kind of traveler who likes to mix business with pleasure, then an airline that offers frequent flyer miles may be the right airline for you. Frequent flyer miles can be used on your way to business class, first class, or even coach. And with a little research, you can find out where all the best travel points in the world are located, so that you can purchase the tickets and the lounge chairs and maybe even some of the meals too.