Over-booked flights; What if nobody will relinquish their seat?

It’s fairly common practice for airlines to overbook flights, then get on the loud speaker, either at the gate or on the plane itself & say something to the effect of: “Today’s flight is overbooked. If your travel plans are flexible & you’d like a hundred dollar voucher & can fly later today, please contact your flight attendent.”

But what if NO ONE gets up? Say it’s a commuter flight or a Thanksgiving flight or some other time when everyone has some place to be & no time to spare. What happens? Does anyone work at an airline who can cite some official policy? Is it simply hoped that if they raise the voucher price high enough, somebody’s going to budge?

Just curious.

They can force you to give up your seat.

If they do, they have to compensate you, and the requirements for that compensation are generally higher than what they offer for volunteers. But ultimately, even if you have a confirmed seat, and you’ve boarded the plane, you can be bumped.

They just bite the bullet and inform the unfortunates that they will not be travelling. This is not a job I would enjoy as passengers, very understandably, can get most indignant.

Probably go by date the ticket was sold - last one to buy loses.
Tho they may start offering cash PLUS a voucher.
Eventually the incentive will pay for a private jet… :slight_smile:


Last to check in for the flight, first to be booted involuntarily. I believe they start with the Coach tickets, naturally, not First or Business.

How do they choose who gets bumped? I’m sure it isn’t totally arbitrary. And which passengers are so magical that others must get bumped for them? I understand that sometimes employees must be on flights, whether to get them home or to their next assignment, but otherwise?

Well—I got an answer (twice) to one of my questions as I wrote it. I love this place. One still stands though: Who are the chosen ones for whom others must relinquish their seats?

Membership in the airline’s FF program probably goes into the choosing of who gets yanked. They’re not likely to want to arbritrarily annoy a full-fare paying business traveler with 45,000 miles on their account, as opposed to someone who’s on the airline for the first time because the fare was low.

I think simple social-psychology will tell you that someone will give up a seat, especiall if there’s a monetary incentive.

I believe that each seat is assigned to only one person on each flight, it’s not like they assigned two people to the same seat. The people waiting at the gate area who have assigned seats can get on, the ones who have just showed up with tickets but no seat can’t get on unless one of the passengers with a seat offers his for the prizes.

Is that what you’re asking? If no one agreed to give up his seat, the passengers with tickets but not yet with an assigned seat would not be allowed on the plane.

What I’m asking (now) is a) who do people get bumped for? Which passengers would be considered important enough that others would even be asked to forfeit their seats for him/her?

Also, this situation seems to happen pretty frequently with airlines like Southwest where the seats aren’t assigned as opposed to cross-country or intercontental flights or airlines with assigned seating.

One potato, two potato,. . .

Northwest’s rules are:

I second your question. I have some friends who flew to D.C. a year ago (from Detroit) and all four tickets were bought in advance and were right next to each other. Same with the return trip. When they all got to the airport to come home, (they arrived early) and were checking in, 2 of the people were told they have been bumped and would have to catch a flight 3 hours later. They complained but to no avail. They were not even given a reason other than they had sold the seats to someone else on THAT DAY! My only guess is someone f*cked up and the second round of seats were sold at a higher price and the airline figured it was worth the money to piss off a couple of passengers.

The last time I was returning from Vegas to San Jose on and America West flight, some yahoo was claiming I took his seat. After a brief arguement, a flight attendant came over to resolve the dispute. She looked at my boarding pass, and his. Somehow he got the same boarding pass as I did, along with my name printed on it. Needless to say after showing some ID, he was promptly escorted off the plane. But in his defense, he was saying that was the pass issued to him since he was flying standby. Scary.

The Department of Transportation has regulations that address denied boarding.

14 C.F.R. §§ 250.1 et seq requires every airline to “…establish priority rules and criteria for determining which passengers holding confirmed reserved space shall be denied boarding on an oversold flight in the event that an insufficient number of volunteers…” relinquish their seats voluntarily. Id. § 250.3.

And a passenger who is involuntarily denied boarding is not required to accept this compensation and can instead “…decline the payment and seek to recover damages in a court of law or in some other manner.” Id. § 250.9.

Actually, I don’t know why I never thought of it before… but in the example from my previous post… why wasn’t this guy stopped at the gate? As far as I know, they were still checking ID’s to see if they match the boarding pass.

Ok, now I’m officially paranoid! =P

As a kind of sidebar to this, if you have ever purchased a ticket and been unable to pick your seats, being told “Seat assignment will be at checkin,” be sure you get to the airport or do your online checkin early. Usually this means all seats eligible for assignment have been sold and you are in the pool of what may be the overbooking for that flight.

That is, there are still seats, say 25 of them held back from being assigned. But the airline may sell 35 more tickets. They do this because their algorithms say that usually, there will be 10 no-shows on that flight. Problems ensue when there are less than 10 no-shows.

Could depend on where he got his boarding pass. If it was before the whole metal-detector fiasco, yeah, he probably should have been rejected. But I’m sure some screeners just shuffle people through. If it was at the gate itself (since it was standby, it might’ve been), I don’t recall ever being IDed on the way into the plane itself. They just scan tickets & hustle you through. The ID phase is usually at the original check-in & at the bag-x-ray, pseudo-innevitably post-metal-detector pat-down.

Well, this was a few months ago… actually come to think of it they might not have been checking ID’s at the gate, just scanning the boarding pass. I think I was remembering when you used to have your ID and boarding pass before you could get into the tunnel.

Even if this was the case, wouldn’t scanning the same pass twice bring up a red flag? Apparently not… so by me making a protest, I fought terrorism! =P