TODAY’S MODERATOR: Why can airlines overbook?

Not surprisingly, we got a lot of email about the United Airlines fiasco. Reader K. M. Dawson made several interesting points:

“Why are airlines allowed to overbook?” she writes. “When people reserve a hotel room, they do so with the understanding that they will be charged unless they cancel before a certain deadline and the hotel is then able to resell the room. And check the refund policy on tickets for events; often these are sold on a non-returnable basis. Why aren’t airline seats booked on the same basis? After all, the airline wants the money from the seat, whether or not a passenger is aboard.

“Moreover, isn’t selling something you don’t have fraud?

“Furthermore, what would happen if you had just gotten into your hotel room and they desk clerk told you, ‘Sorry, one of our employees is stranded and needs a place to stay. We’re giving him your room and we’ll give you a voucher for a room you can use anytime in the next few months’? Or what if you got served in a restaurant and the waiter took your food away and told you the restaurant needed your table so the cook could eat his dinner right then?”

Your turn: Email

YESTERDAY’S MODERATOR: Bloodied on United.

About the Author