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For my sins, I take something of the order of 100 flights a year, mostly outside of the US. I'd have to preference my remarks by saying that I rarely even get threatened with bumping because I'm typically fairly high on the FF food chain.

That said, I have been "involuntarily bumped" once this year, and despite the fact that it was somewhat of an inconvenience, I accepted it without much of a fuss because *overselling of flights works for me as well as for the airlines.*

As others have mentioned, there is about a 15% no-show rate at time of flight. What is more, I am sure that if you looked at all the people booked on a flight 5 days before it takes off or 2 days before takeoff and checked out how many of the people then booked actually make it to the flight, then the "not show up" rate would be much, much higher. If Airlines were not able to work the statistics and oversell seats, just think of the consequences:

1. My chances of actually getting a reservation wouild drastically decrease, because at any given time the apparent available capacity would drop by 30% or so.

2. Airlines would be forced to sell non-changeable tickets. That's just a non-starter for me. I rarely manage to meet the expected itinerary on my typical multi-destination and often multi-week biztrip. Since the better airlines make most of their money out of frequent business travellers, I bet it would be a non-starter for most of their clientele.

3. Ticket prices would have to go up by approximately the same percentage as the average load rate would go down. Bad for me.

4. OK. points 2 and 3 are sort of options. Probably it would be a mix of the two, but they mitigate each other.

I have only twice been in a situation where I could "volunteer" to be bumped. That's because this only happens in the US. On the first occasion I really had to be at the destination on time so I didn't volunteer. On the second, they were offering a stopover in Hawaii with hotel. I had a spare day an thought breaking my journey to Tokyo half-way would be kinda nice so I tried to volunteer. No Dice. I was knocked over in the rush and missed out. I can say 100% of the people who were voluntarily bumped on that flight were happy with what they got.

There is of course a system in most places whereby airlines can sell the seats of no-shows on the day. It's called "standby". It was an option for me in my college days but not any more.

Home88 Writes:
Really what the point is, is that some common sense has to be instilled into the process. Flights need to leave on time. If the passengers aren't present, the flight leaves. They will be put on the next flight to the same destination that has available seats, for a charge. If the airline overbooks the flight, they should be just as liable as the customer. Passengers should be repaid for prepaid vacation items that they can verify, etc. I imagine that the whole process would run much more efficiently if everyone, customer and business, were held to a higher standard.

It's a nice concept. However it wouldn't work as well in practice as the current one does, because it would take most of the flexibility built into the current system out. If you really can't afford to be bumped, you always have the option of paying a full economy (Y class) seat. Then you will only be bumped after all the people on excursion fares have been bumped.

The system as it is is designed to look after the people who represent most of the profit for airlines - the business traveller. Then the system tries to fill up the rest of the seats with excursion fares at lower prices. In the end, on average, everyone wins because fabulously cheap excursion fares are available for vacationers. If you took the flexibility out of the system, then these fares would disappear because there would be little incentive for airlines to offer them.

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