For once in my life, I read the small print on a flight ticket. And I have to say, I was amazed at what was lurking in there.

Tucked away at the bottom was this phrase: “In order to minimise the effect of ‘no-shows’… British Airways and most major airlines may overbook services.”

What? In other words, the World’s favourite airline regularly sells seat places that they have already sold! This, of course, means that if everybody DOES show up, several poor saps are going to be told they can’t travel. Either that or they will have to sit on the laps of other passengers.

But why? After all, the seats have been paid for in full. What difference does it make whether there’s somebody sitting there, or not? Oh, wait. It must be a way of making more money while inconveniencing people who have paid, booked, received a confirmation and turned up on time.

The airline company take the chance on a “no-show” in the hope of making a bit more dosh. Nice.

Digging into this a bit more, I discovered that, according to the Air Transport Users’ Group, “Some airlines’ flights have been 50 per cent overbooked… We hear stories of 50 and 60 people being bumped at one time.” In fact, British Airways admitted it overbooked almost half a million seats this year.

Oh, and the airlines don’t call it being “bumped”, they call it “denied boarding”. I suppose that way it sounds as though YOU have done something wrong.

In other words, despite you checking in on time, with a valid ticket and a confirmed reservation, you can find yourself “denied boarding” just so the airline can make a bigger profit.

Can you just imagine how one of those airline company directors would react if he journeyed to the theatre to see his favourite band, with a valid ticket he’d been given by a family member as a birthday present, to discover that – ooops – we’ve double-booked your seat.

Never mind, here’s a ticket for another gig, with a different band, on another evening at a different theatre. Ample compensation. Imagine if the theatre had double booked – and double-charged – his seat on the grounds that he MIGHT not turn up.

I’m sure he would argue the toss about that. And rightly so.

Drew McAdam


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