How to avoid overbooking

How to protect yourself to avoid being rejected at the gate


Overbooking is a practice widely used by airlines that forecasts the sale of a greater number of tickets compared to the seats actually available.

This practice is used to make the greatest possible profit by forecasting that a certain number of passengers booked do not show up for boarding.




Airlines strengthened by their regressed experience, use sophisticated algorithms that take into account dozens of variables to predict how many cancellations a particular flight will have, in order to sell more tickets and thus earn as much as possible. The effectiveness of these algorithms is very high in fact, in the vast majority of cases, passengers who do not show up coincide with the forecasts thus allowing that there is place on board for everyone.

Sometimes, however, the forecasts are wrong and, if the passengers present at the gate are greater than the total number of seats available, the airline must identify, on a voluntary basis or through certain requirements, one or more passengers who will not embark on board. Obviously, when purchasing the ticket, this eventuality is clearly specified among the clauses.

These passengers are reprotected by the airline with alternative flights, compensation for inconvenience and any overnight stay in the hotel if necessary. Often it is the passengers themselves who voluntarily accept to stay ashore incentivized by the alternatives made available to them but it can also happen that no one accepts and the company will have the thankless task of deciding who not to embark on board.

To avoid being overbooked on the ground, there are some precautions that, as far as possible, can be followed so that the airline does not take us into consideration:


  • First requirement as you can imagine is to have a seat booked in First Class or Business Class , no company would dream of leaving a passenger on the ground who has paid handsomely for a privileged class ticket but on the contrary can prefer a passenger who bought their ticket at a discounted price


  • Having a " frequent flyer " card of the company concerned can help so it is good practice to do it even if you are not a regular passenger


  • The last to check-in are often the ones most subject to overbooking so it is always better to not show up at the counter at the last minute


  • Traveling on a morning flight reduces the chance of being overbooked because statistically these flights are less crowded


  • If you travel in a group it would be cruel to be divided by your travel companions but still not impossible


  • Checked baggage can save us as it is unlikely that the company will look for checked baggage, rather prefer to leave someone traveling with hand baggage on the ground


Before booking a flight, read carefully the airline's clauses regarding overbooking in order to be prepared and assert your rights in the event of being forced to stay on the ground.