If you have a new account but are having problems posting or verifying your account, please email us on for help. Thanks :)
Hello all! Please ensure that you are posting a new thread or question in the appropriate forum. The Feedback forum is overwhelmed with questions that are having to be moved elsewhere. If you need help to verify your account contact

How and why do flights oversell?

  • 13-02-2022 12:46pm
    Registered Users Posts: 185 ✭✭Green Finers

    I know this is very common in America, but not so much here in the EU.

    When a person buys a fight ticket and they are given the option of reserving a specific seat or being assigned one upon check in, would the person who was only planning to accept one at check in be to told the flight is oversold and the person who paid for a seat at the time of purchase be safe because they already have a seat?

    Why do they do this? I’ve heard no shows as a reason but that’s rubbish. They have their money already so why does a no show matter? Only thing I can think of would be people not buying onboard snacks if they don’t bother showing up.

    What if this happens on an infrequent route? IE, there’s only one or two routes per week and a person’s holiday is ruined.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,303 ✭✭✭bikeman1

    Because it can make really good business sense to do so. The airlines have all the statistics on who turns up and up doesn’t and can make a judgement if needed to oversell.

    Now, it can happen that everyone turns up, and then they have to get the cheque book out. But they know that some people will take the offer of cash for a slight delay as they are not in a rush. If you can sell a seat a second time that was sold cheap and that person unlikely to turn up, to sell it at top dollar then you do.

    As you say it is not very common in Europe. I’ve benefited before from it. Mega bucks offered, yes please.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,115 ✭✭✭✭Caranica

    A lot of times the issue can be connection hubs. I've volunteered off flights in O'Hare, La Guardia and Schiphol and done rather well out of them. Direct flights might not be oversold but when you've got delayed connections feeding into the same flights and people under pressure to get places, you can end up with more people than seats.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,427 ✭✭✭NSAman

    If this happens to you in the states. That”ll be four times the price of the ticket or $1550 (max) (I think). Most people don’t know this. Airlines will just push you to the next flight. It’s called involuntary denied boarding and covered by DOT.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,345 ✭✭✭KaneToad

    It's purely a bottom line exercise. The airline knows they can make more money from overselling. The risk of paying the occasional compensation is worth it.

    Past behaviour is an indication of future behaviour.

    If the level of compensation exceeds the revenue gained from overselling, the practice will cease.

  • Posts: 0 Adele Helpful Sax

    Makes more money, basically. Nearly inevitably there’s a percentage of no-shows, more especially on larger aircraft, and that is factored in. Then just occasionally absolutely everyone just shows up and someone gets bumped off. If one looks at the small print your flight ticket is not a guarantee of travel on a particular day.

    Going to Oz with BA in 1992 several of us were asked would we travel next day instead as aircraft was overbooked and unexpectedly too many had turned up, and weight and balance were a factor too. There was an offer of free hotel night at airport and a very generous amount for inconvenience expenses. I was on a group tour and the organiser, who had been a BA employee, made sure we weren’t affected, but I would have been half tempted because of the generous offer at the time had I been on my own. On board the 747 I got up to the cockpit half way over (a done thing in those days) and I asked the pilot about fuel situation. He responded “you have asked a very valid question there, as we are at capacity and just the minimum safety margin and no more, that’s to do with why we had to offload passengers in Heathrow.”

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 185 ✭✭Green Finers

    Would reserving your seat at the time of purchase make you immune to being denied boarding? You already have a seat.

  • Posts: 2,827 [Deleted User]

    seems not based on that poor asian doctor guy who lost his teeth when involuntarily deboarded a few years ago.

    4 deadheaders replaced 4 paying customers on a sold out but not overbooked small embraer 170.

    If the cabin crew had some grace and only offered enough hard cash somebody else would have volunteered.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 4,173 Mod ✭✭✭✭Locker10a

    That was indeed a mess of a situation.

    It seems the airline made the decision to position pilots they needed elsewhere, on that flight after boarding had already commenced and the original passengers were onboard.

    if they got no volunteers for that price they should have abandoned that plan or offered more money. Which btw would have absolutely nothing to do with cabin crew. This would be for the duty manager or ground ops manager to deal with. Onboard crews have no say or input

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 4,173 Mod ✭✭✭✭Locker10a

    This is a pretty good video that give an explanation

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 4,173 Mod ✭✭✭✭Locker10a

    I’m not sure… I worked for a very very big LCC in Europe, we had overbooked flight every single day especially in peak summer. Never once had an issue and I would say 90% of my oversold flights still left with a seat free from no-shows etc.

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 1,303 ✭✭✭bikeman1

    No, the airline can move you wherever even if you have paid for a seat. Now they may have to refund you in such a situation, but they have the right to do so.

    The normal situation, if a flight is looking like it is going to be over capacity is to look for volunteers to offload. As mentioned, there are quite a lot of no shows for flights for a whole host of reasons.

    I know myself that have not taken flights in the past for various reasons. And even with Ryanair have booked two flights and took the one that suited on the day as they were so cheap.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,183 ✭✭✭goingnowhere

    If you want to avoid being 'selected' for being offloaded

    1. Be in the frequent flyer program of the airline
    2. Connecting itinerary, its gets too messy to mess with this so point to point passengers will be targeted first (you are still at risk on the final flight)
    3. Buy the ticket early
    4. Check in early

    The US is a very different place, complex web or routes and an automatic upgrade system on the legacy carriers. The IT is very much better at handling changes on the fly.

  • Registered Users Posts: 185 ✭✭Green Finers

    So by availing of early web check in you reduce (but not entirely eliminate) the risk of being picked?

  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 9,859 Mod ✭✭✭✭Tenger

    I wouldn't rely too much on web check in.

    If the aircraft has 100 seats and has sold 110 tickets, the first 100 who physically show up at the gate/checkin get the seats.

    Even if the last 10 have used web check in to select a seat.

  • Registered Users Posts: 185 ✭✭Green Finers

    So they could be allowing two people to select a specific seat?

    I thought the days of just picking a seat were over and seat reservation or random allocation were compulsory?

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 4,173 Mod ✭✭✭✭Locker10a

    Correct, but they know that on average not all passengers will check in for a flight, and so those passengers won’t be assigned any seat. Until they check in. If to many check in, it will trigger the process for an overbooking scenario. So they may send out a text to a certain number of passengers advising of options to take a later flight and some form of compensation etc.

  • Registered Users Posts: 751 ✭✭✭Lustrum

    Back when I worked in ground ops, in situations like this if there were no/not enough volunteers, it went down to your sequence number on your boarding card. So at that time, it definitely was better to check in early if you didn't want to be denied boarding.

    As stated above, it was common practice for flights to be oversold, but easily less than a handful of times did everyone actually show up and it became an issue