United Airlines have been the butt of a PR disaster this week, following their forced removal of a passenger from a flight out of Chicago O’Hare.
David Dao, the man who was dragged from his seat, needed to be ‘ejected’ because the flight had been overbooked, leaving no space for him.
Check out the video here:
This left many people surprised. Not just with the childish manner in which it was dealt with by United, but the fact that flights can be ‘overbooked’ in general.
How can an airline company book too many people onto a flight with a set amount of seats? We are living in the age of supercomputing and extremely advanced scheduling programs!
It turns out it’s totally on purpose, airlines use this tactic to account for no-shows on flights.
With complicated algorithms, airlines will predict (with insane accuracy) how many people aren’t going to show up for the flight. It is based on the airport, the flight time, day of week etc…
Using this data, they can quite confidently fill up seats. Otherwise, it would be wasted opportunity for the airline to make extra cash.
In the 8 or 9 cases out of 10,000 flights when this algorithm gets a prediction wrong and everyone who bought a ticket turns up, it’s cheaper for the airline to compensate than to not overbook at all.
According to the airline, they choose a passenger to be denied flight based on a number of factors. Most of it revolves around how much that passenger is worth to the company.
Check out this great video by Wendover Production which explains this in more detail:
Unfortunately, this practice is likely here to stay as it makes airlines millions of dollars per year.
Perhaps going forward it could be dealt with a little better…