Come fly with me…no, you can’t

19 Jan

Experience has taught airlines that every flight of every route has a certain number of no-shows – people who have booked a seat, haven’t paid and who cancel at the last minute or simply don’t show up, and people who book and pay for a seat but who for some reason choose not to fly.

Each airline has its own carefully protected mathematic algorithm for calculating this number, but generally it takes into consideration: scheduled elements, such as the route and time of the flight; regular variations, such as public holidays and seasonal weather; and intermittent fluctuations, such as special events and dramatic weather changes.

They even throw in the occasional curve ball, such as the cancellation of another airline’s entire flight for technical reasons.

As such, most of the time planes depart with the number of no-shows balanced out by the extra number of passengers booked.

At worst, a handful of passengers are left behind having agreed to take a later flight in return for an upgrade or a voucher to be used at a later date. At best, a number of seats have been paid for more than once.

The airlines would confidently say this is a vibrant business model. Some would say it’s just greed.

However, there’s something the airlines always overlook: passengers are human.

Whereas people can choose to amble around a mall window-shopping, no one boards a plane to go cloud-gazing and unless they’re going on holiday and see the flight as part of the experience, most people see flying as a necessary evil.

It’s like having a Pap smear, only a little more cramped.

People fly because they need to be at a particular place on a particular day, so they book a specific flight at a specific time. Also, with more and more people booking online, more and more flights are paid for up front.

This means when someone arrives at a check-in counter, they want to be in a seat on the flight that they have paid for.

Of course, as everyone knows, if you mix a dollop of maths, a reliance on technology and a dose of corporate greed, and throw in some human nature, sooner or later something’s going to go horribly wrong.

Occasionally airlines get thrown two curve balls at the same time and everyone who booked and paid for a seat arrives to catch the flight.

They all want to be where they want to be when they want to be, and they certainly don’t want to be given as a reason why they can’t a shrugging ground-staff member saying: “Sorry, the flight was overbooked.”

Note: they never say “we overbooked the flight”, only that the flight “was overbooked”, as if it were somehow the passengers’ fault.

So here’s my suggestion for how to make sure you’re always on the flight you’ve booked and paid for: when you check-in, tell them you hope the flight isn’t overbooked, then show them a plastic bag containing a skewer, a half-jack of brandy and a disposable lighter.

Then say you think it’s best that you don’t take it on board, and would they mind terribly disposing of it for you.

My guess is that you’ll get your seat. – Sunday Tribune

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