David Lazarus has another travel column in the LA Times today that is filled with complaints, but lacking substance.
This particularly caught my eye:
Personally, I can’t understand how any business can get away with selling more of a product than it can possibly offer. Oh, I get why airlines would want to do it: Why carry the risk of a passenger not showing up for a seat when you can offload that risk to the passengers who do?
But isn’t selling something that you won’t have — in this case, sufficient capacity for everyone who wants a seat — a breach of contract or an act of fraud? Apparently not, insofar as airlines warn in advance that they may pull something like this, and federal authorities say that’s good enough for them.
"It’s a common aspect of the airline industry," Headley said. "But it does sound like it’s right on the edge of dishonest."
Here’s the answer David: overbooking flights allows travelers like you to fly for less $ and allows United to earn more revenue. Airlines do not flippantly overbook flights because they can "merely" offload extra passengers–they overbook flights because the nature of air travel (delays, misconnections, hundreds of seats on a single plane) is a lot different than selling a loaf of bread or a used car.
And as Lazarus concedes, airlines don’t hide the fact that they overbook. If you are aware (or should have been aware by reading the fine print) that airlines overbook flights before you purchase the ticket, you effectively give up the right to sue for breach of contract if you end up being forced on a later flight. That’s the nature of the game of airline travel.
Does this make me an airline apologist? If you insist. I recognize the advantages of overbooking flights and choose to travel by air even with the knowledge that I might be denied a seat from point A to point B on the flight I want. Those who are not comfortable with such a proposition are free to take Amtrak or drive.
But for Lazarus, and other enlightened commentators with the chutzpha to dictate that airline ticket prices need to be higher, a solution is in sight:
Most important, it’s time for airlines to stop competing to see who can offer passengers the worst experience and to instead start charging high-enough ticket prices to ensure a fair profit (emphasis on "fair") while also treating customers with a modicum of respect.
Hey Dave: if that’s what would return airlines to profitability, you can bet they would have embraced your paradigm years ago.