Overbooked flight??

Dec 9th, 2008, 10:56 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Overbooked flight??

Last night I purchased a ticket for my niece: New orleans - Chicago, Dec 28th-Jan 4th, United. Kayak indicated it was the last ticket available for that itinerary.

When I went to do seat assignment, the United site said "There are no seats available. Seats will be assigned at the airport".

Now I'm worried that this is an "overbook" situation. Are there things she should do to give her the best shot at a seat---like arrive extremely early? Or will she be far down the list simply based on the lateness of the purchase?

JeanneB is offline  
Dec 9th, 2008, 11:25 AM
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I looked at the United site (while logged in, so I can see availability and all seats). There are three flights each direction on those days, and none of them are sold out--most are far from it. For most, all of the regular economy seats are booked (which is why you see the "seats will be assigned at the airport" message), but the Economy Plus sections are mostly wide open. Any overflow will be assigned to E+, but not until the flight is under gate control. I wouldn't be terribly worried about this. But, it always helps to check in early--online the day before if she can.
ms_go is online now  
Dec 9th, 2008, 11:36 AM
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Kayak (nor airline website) is a reliable way to determine if a flight is actually full (until it IS actually sold out). Sometimes that indication merely means that there is only one more seat available at that low price - or that they want you to believe buy it now or you will end up walking to destination.

Airlines always hold out some seats to be assigned at check-in - and then there is the issue of E+ as discussed above.

And worst possible outcome - the flight is overbooked. That does not mean that your neice is the one who would not fly. It is very rare for a traveler with a paid ticket to get bumped off a flight. Airlines offer incentives to be "bumped" to other passengers.

I understand that it is anxiety provoking. I always feel better when I can print out the nice itinerary with seat number. But there have been quite a few times that that seat number is changed for some mysterious reason by the airline anyway. Having a seat number is not a guarantee of anything.
gail is online now  
Dec 9th, 2008, 04:18 PM
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Thanks to both of you. I think you're probably right that the "1 ticket left" referred only to that fare. We'll hope for the best.
I will prepare her for "bumping" offers, should that come up.

JeanneB is offline  
Dec 9th, 2008, 10:50 PM
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Involuntary bumps are very, very, very rare. There is absolutely no reason to worry about them.

The airlines do not like to do it and they will almost always find somebody willing to take some sort of compensation for accepting a later flight. Usually, there are more people looking to accept the offer than they need.

Indeed, some people go out of their way to try and get bumped, since it can be very lucrative. I have nearly EUR 1000 in vouchers earned simply for spending an extra couple of hours at Schiphol. I once flew 4 trips for the price of 1, because I was able to keep getting bumped and rolling it into another ticket.

If the bump offer comes, however, never take the free ticket. Always ask for a voucher and ensure that it works like cash (i.e. few restrictions).
travelgourmet is online now  
Dec 10th, 2008, 10:38 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
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seatcounter.com is one of the more reliable sources for checking flight loads. It looks like that flight is nowhere close to sold out. As the previous poster said, they will just assign people to the economy plus section. She will get a seat (barring some crazy, unlikely circumstance), but she should show up early to get the seat that she wants.
travelguy120 is offline  
Dec 10th, 2008, 05:34 PM
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Very reassuring...thanks!

We live almost 2 hrs from New Orleans and she'll be there alone. I just worry about her running into something outside my "instructions". I'm sure she'll do fine.
JeanneB is offline  
Dec 11th, 2008, 05:17 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,912
JeanneB, this has happened several times to my husband lately while traveling on business and he has never been bumped...well one time up to business class. His tickets were purchased through the airline, relatively last minute, and indicated "seats will be assigned at the airport". He finally broke down and asked an agent what gives and there was an explanation that I don't recall but found curious. Best wishes, I'm sure it will all work out.
AnnMarie_C is offline  
Dec 11th, 2008, 06:06 AM
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I'm not sure which flights your niece is taking on those days, but four of the six use Ted-configured A320s. On those, 66 of 156 seats are Economy Plus. Add the back row, which is usually blocked for gate control, and that's nearly half the seats on plane that can't be reserved in advance unless eligible (United elite status, paid E+ subscription, etc.).

You can certainly keep checking to see if anything opens up. Otherwise, as I mentioned earlier, they eventually will assign those who don't have seats into Economy Plus, but she should not expect that to happen until she's at the gate--probably around the time they start boarding. The reason is that United will try to sell E+ up until the last minute. She will most likely get an offer to buy up when she checks in. Not sure what the going rate is. It varies by length of flight. I bought it for my husband for a San Antonio-Chicago flight (similar to MSY, I think) about a year ago and seem to recall it being around $35.

If she doesn't get a seat assignment at check-in, she'll get a departure management card that will allow her to go through security.

I'm sure everything will be fine.
ms_go is online now  
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