How to deal with “Over-Sold” Flights

Crowded Flights, Family Travel Guide

Travel with kids often means extra planning. So, what happens when you end up booked on an over-sold flight? What does “Over-Sold” even mean?

The more popular a route, the more likely it is to be overbooked. Airlines do this to avoid having empty seats — they basically offer MORE tickets for sale than are available with the expectation that some travellers will be NO-shows, cancel last minute or re-book on a later or earlier flight. So, they “over-sell” thinking that in the end it will all balance out. In some instances this planning works out for them. But, in some cases, every single passenger shows up.

So — now what? How do they determine who to remove from an over-booked flight? How can you avoid being shifted to another day/time?

First of all, if you’re travelling with young kids, you’re not high on their list of priority to “bump” as they call it. Airlines most often look for single travellers to volunteer to change their flight times. You’ll often hear announcements from the gate, asking for a certain number of passengers to wait for another flight/another day in exchange for monetary compensation, gift cards or airline credit.

If you’re concerned at all about this happening to you, or it’s extremely important that you travel on a specific day, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent being bumped:

(1) call a travel agent or the airline directly to find out how many seats are sold/available. They can see if the flight is over-sold or near capacity upon booking. If it’s already at capacity, it might be better to find a new airline or choose an alternate time.

(2) If the price seems too good to be true, that’s because it might be trying to over-sell seats. Again, if you’re concerned at all about a flight, and a website says “two seats left” you might be safer to call and book directly through the airline in that case.

(3) Check-in on time! Don’t wait until the last minute to confirm your reservation. At that 24-hour window, hop on your phone or computer and confirm your seats. This still doesn’t guarantee anything for sure, but it increases your chances of firming up your seat.

Overall, overbooking an airline is a business strategy that’s intended to avoid flying with a bunch of empty seats. Airlines take a risk in that they’re hoping some people won’t show. They use a lot of backend data when determining what flights to do this with.

If you’ve got little kids with you, you’re not high on their list of targets. So don’t fret too much. Although, you’re more than welcome to volunteer and take the credits if you’re interested and your travel plans are flexible.

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