Sometimes natural weather occurrences cause your flight plans to go awry. And then there are
the times when it is the airline's fault as is the case with mechanical problems, and oversells.
Virtually every airline embraces the policy of overselling flights. This means that the airline has
sold more seats on the aircraft than it physically has on board.
As a passenger, it can be
incredibly frustrating to arrive and check in at the airport, only to look at your boarding pass and
realize that there is no seat assigned to you. Invariably, this indicates that the flight you have
booked on has been oversold, or is close to full booking capacity. Before resigning yourself to the possibility that you may be
watching your flight leave without you on it, let's look at what an oversold flight is, and what this
means to you as a passenger.
Airlines oversell flights because there tends to be a certain number of passengers that do not
show up for the flights that they are booked on. For some airlines, it is required for every
passenger to call and reconfirm that they will travel (usually between 24-72 hours prior to
departure), or the airline will cancel the reservation. This is not a common practice for the
major airlines, which can absorb a certain amount of lost passenger revenues. The reconfirm-or-
have-your-booking-cancelled tends to be the policy for some smaller airlines that may suffer
more devastating financial losses if a passenger doesn't show up.
Airlines do not disclose the
percentage that they oversell flights, and depending on time of year, and where the flight is
going to, the percentage that an airline oversells can easily range from 10 to 45 percent!
Flights can be oversold at any time of the year, but this practice is most noticeable around
holiday travel periods, when every flight seems to be brimming with passengers. Airlines
overbook in order to try and make sure that their flights depart full and maximize profits. The
MCO (the miscellaneous charge(s) order) is one of the options that will be offered for
passengers volunteering to take a later flight.
Even if you have not volunteered to take a later
flight but have been bumped off a flight because the airline has oversold it, you are entitled to
compensation. Travel voucher will be used to represent MCO,
because outside of the travel industry, this is how it is most commonly known.
Airlines prefer travel vouchers because they are not a payment in cash, it is essentially future
credit. Because a travel voucher is not cash, the airlines tend to offer greater compensation if
you choose this option. For example, an airline may offer $100 cash or a $300 travel voucher.
The compensation of course may be richer depending on destination, and how desperately the
airline wants to get volunteers. In other words, the airline wants to avoid paying out cash, and
although cash compensation is rarely negotiable, the airline may budge on the travel voucher
amount if warranted.
Bump, Bumping, Overselling Flights