Overbooking might be common in the airline industry today, but the occurrence made national headlines this week after a Nobel Prize-winning economist was bumped from a plane on which he already was seated.
Robert Shiller’s wife, Virginia, tells MarketWatch that they were told to leave the plane after none of the passengers volunteered to do so in exchange for a cash reward:
“They said, ‘You’re going to have to get off the flight.’ It was just extraordinarily difficult and inconvenient. What if your daughter was pregnant or you were going to a funeral? They ended up paying us $2,700, which did not cover the alternative arrangements we had to make.”
The Shillers were headed to a conference.
Robert Shiller teaches at Yale University and is co-founder of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the major tracker of U.S. home values.
According to the MarketWatch report, two circumstances applied to the Shillers’ case and made it more likely the couple would get booted from the flight:
- Virginia Shiller booked the flight via an online travel website.
- The Shillers had some of the cheapest tickets for that flight.
Christine Sarkis, editor at travel advice site Smartertravel.com, tells MarketWatch two other circumstances increase your risk of being bumped:
- Checking in late at the airport.
- Getting to the gate late.
Airlines are quick to read latecomers as no-shows when a flight is overbooked, Sarkis says:
“Being late is especially risky if you’re flying on a popular route or during a busy travel season.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, one reason airlines overbook flights is to compensate for no-shows.
When passengers are bumped from a flight as a result of overbooking, Department of Transportation protocol calls for airlines to first ask for passengers who aren’t in a hurry to give up their seats voluntarily.
Passengers who are involuntarily bumped are generally entitled to compensation that depends on various factors.
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