Overbooking: how to earn on it or on the contrary not to lose everything


"Sorry, there are no more seats" is a phrase you don't want to hear from an airline employee, when you are at a check-in counter or, worse, standing by your seat on board an airplane. Before your eyes immediately flash back to the booked hotel overlooking the sea, excursions to the best vineyards in the country and the vacation you've been planning all year.
Congratulations! (And in some cases I'm still sorry!) You've encountered overbooking!

Overbooking is overbooking, sale of more tickets than seats on board. By the way, it concerns not only airlines, but hotels as well. What are the causes of overbooking, is it legal, and how to deal with such a situation, we are now going to talk about all of this.

1. The most common: the airline intentionally sells more tickets than seats available (most often they do this on non-refundable fares). This practice emerged around the 1950s, when companies estimated that about 10% of passengers did not show up for their flight, resulting in that portion of seats being left vacant. Previously, passengers could ask for a refund for their no-show without giving a reason and airlines had to refund them, resulting in a loss. After calculating all the monetary losses due to such refunds, the companies decided to sell more tickets to make a profit on "no-show" seats. Then non-refundable fares were introduced and airlines began to suffer even less from no-shows. Often this strategy proved itself, but sometimes there are conflicting situations. For example, the story with United Airlines in spring 2017, when a passenger was forcibly removed from the plane, even though he had tickets in hand, but the computer decided that it was he who had to leave the plane.

2. Technical reasons related to the replacement of the plane. Sometimes, due to some technical malfunction of one plane, another plane is put in for replacement that is not exactly identical. There may be fewer seats on the new plane and more tickets have been sold which results in (unplanned) overbooking.

3. When another person has to fly urgently. It may be an employee of the company, as it happened to United Airlines, a VIP passenger, or a person who is seriously ill.
However, you may wonder: what about the situation when everyone is on board, including the people who have bought 'extra' tickets? Airlines naturally understand that such a situation is possible and so ways have been devised to compensate for the inconvenience caused.

- Boarding on the next closest flight with a service upgrade. If the wait is long, they can also offer free lodging, transfers and breakfast.
- Rarely you may be offered a transfer to Business on your flight
- Cash compensation (very rare event in Russia, usually works on European and American flights).
Unfortunately no one is immune from overbooking (unless you are a VIP customer of the airline). You can buy the very first ticket for the plane, you can do it a year before the flight, but still become a "chosen one". Perhaps the only thing that we can advise in order to avoid being on the overbooking list is to check-in for the flight as early as possible and to arrive at the airport in advance.

If you are unlucky enough to get on the overbooking list, here is your plan of action
1. If you see/hear that someone else is left without a seat, co-operate and go to solve the problem together. More people, more noise, less desire to leave it all unattended (by the airline).

2. Go to the check-in desk and ask them to mark your boarding pass for denied boarding due to lack of seats. Record the time and any costs incurred during the waiting period. Write a claim explaining the situation, or submit an online request. In both cases you will need a copy of your passport and boarding ticket.

In most cases, the airline will not want to draw such attention to itself, so you will be offered one of the compensation options. By the way, if the airline offers another flight, but with a lower level of service than you initially had, you are entitled to demand a refund of the fare difference. In addition, if you refuse to board the flight you get all the rights and bonuses that arise in case of a delay on the flight. Unfortunately, in Russia with compensation for flight delays, things are not very good: payments are minimal and bonuses are few, but on European and American flights you can get up to $1350.


The first stage is finding a volunteer who is ready to take the next flight. If there are no volunteers, the computer will decide who should leave the flight: usually the "surplus" are those passengers who are checked-in last, who travel without luggage, or who buy tickets at the lowest fare.


Fly within Europe! On some European flights, it is possible to get a cash refund from overbooking at once. In addition, the airline may provide a hotel and put you on the next flight with a higher class of service. So if the airline staff say that they are looking for volunteers, think and make a decision quickly. After all, there may be a lot of people willing to give up their seat and get all the bonuses of overbooking.

  • Author of the article:
    onlineexpo expert, creator of the travel diary "Manyways_book" Olga Melnikova



More Expo showcases

ᐅ Choose Country

Where better to learn about other countries, the people who live there and their traditions and customs than by travelling. It is also when you travel that you have the unique opportunity to taste authentic national cuisine and hear the language spoken by certain groups of people. Get ready for your holiday and go to those countries that are interesting and fascinating, original and beautiful! We have a lot of...

ᐅ Theme Trips

If you don't have time to make your own itinerary and don't know where to start exploring a country, this is the section for you! Thematic, sightseeing and group tours by country, by interest with the most flexible travel conditions. Any tour can be optionally adapted to your wishes: you can change the departure date, the number of days in the tour, choose the best option for you!

Soovitame Soovitame