Early on, many airlines adopted the policy of not penalizing booked customers for canceling reservations at any time before departure. Some would not even penalize those that did not show up for booked flights. In essence, an airline ticket was “like money” since it could be used at full face value for a future flight or redeemed for cash at any future date. In the sixties, no-shows were becoming a problem for airlines who found that flights that were fully booked were departing with many empty seats. In response, the airlines began to overbook as a means of hedging against no-shows. If a flight had more passengers show than there were seats available, then the airlines would bump some passengers. The bumped passengers would be re-booked on a later flight. In addition, bumped passengers would be given other compensation, often a meal at the airport and a discount certificate applicable to future travel. The cost to the airline of bumping a passenger is called the denied boarding cost. The denied boarding cost would include the cost of putting a bumped passenger on another flight to her destination, the cost of any direct compensation to the bumped passenger, the cost of the meals or lodging that the airline provides to each bumped passenger, and the cost of “ill will” incurred by bumping the passenger. These costs can be different for each flight. For example, a passenger bumped from the last flight of the day will be provided with a hotel room at the airline’s expense.
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