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Why Airlines Sell More Seats Than They Have

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Why Airlines Sell More Seats Than They Have

Wendover Productions,

5 min read
5 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Airlines overbook flights to reduce the price of tickets and attract more passengers.

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Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening
  • Overview


Selling a single product or service to more than one buyer is considered fraudulent in most sectors, but in the airline industry, the practice of “overbooking” – issuing tickets in excess of the space available – is a norm. Why do airlines pursue such double-dealing, and is it legal? getAbstract recommends Wendover Productions’ pithy presentation to anyone who wants to understand the economics of travel or to avoid getting bumped from a flight.


On April 9, 2017, United Airlines forcibly removed a ticketed passenger from Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. A video of the fracas went viral on social media, creating a PR nightmare for United, and a conversation on the principle of “overbooking” erupted. As some passengers inevitably don’t show up for their flights, airlines routinely sell more tickets than seats available aboard their aircraft to maximize their profits and minimize the number of empty seats. The number of excess seats carriers sell depends on the flight route and the day. Flights departing Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, a major hub where many arriving passengers...

About the Speaker

Wendover Productions publishes short educational videos that aim to explain how the world works.

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