ICYMI – Why Airlines Overbook Flights

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), United Airlines has another egregious PR nightmare. This time, due to an overbooked situation on a flight from Chicago to Louisville. In the fallout of this situation, many people are wondering why airlines overbook. Rather than explain it myself, let me provide you a well-written, albeit lengthy article that explains it all from Condé Nast Traveler. The following quote provides the gist of it:

“Airlines say they’re confident in their technology designed to predict how many people holding confirmed reservations will indeed show up. “It’s more scientific now,” says aviation analyst Michael Derchin, who worked at American Airlines when it was designing its system. “They have algorithms for every flight, and know that on a given day, X number of people won’t show up. They overbook to offset that, and overall, they’re pretty good at hitting that target.” Except when they aren’t.”
Of course, United handled this poorly but what surprises me the most is that:

  • No one around this guy (who was forcibly removed) offered to take his place when he started squawking and
  • That guy didn’t realize that on a plane, what the airlines says goes.

IT DOES NOT MAKE IT RIGHT, but think of this way: as soon as you step foot in the gate area, you are subject to the airline laws. Just like an embassy, the airlines are their own little countries and if someone has flown in the past 16 years this should be well-known. I do NOT condone the actions of United, but they’ve always been good to me.

I think United has an opportunity here. They need to hire the right people and empower them to do the right thing. Offering a voucher that expires after a year is not the way to get volunteers. Offer a cash credit and overnight accommodations, that’s a start.

The entire article from Condé Nast is available here.

What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment or not? Let me know in the comments!


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