Overbooking a flight means that airlines will accept a few additional reservations for seats on a flight beyond the aircraft's seating capacity.
Why do it?
According to airline statistics, about 10 % of travelers do not show up for their flight or do not cancel their bookings prior to departure. Due to this, airlines overbook to attempt to fill seats left empty by such travelers. Sometimes due to technical reasons, airlines may replace the assigned aircraft with a smaller aircraft with fewer seats. Different airlines have their own overbooking policies.
How to prevent being bumped from an overbooked flight?
We recommend that you check-in online for your flight on the airline website or at the airport check-in desk arriving well in advance. Online check-in is usually open 24 hours prior to departure.
How airlines handle overbooked flights?
When a flight is overbooked and more passengers show up than a flight can accommodate, airlines may change the travel class – check passengers in business class instead of economy and vice versa.
Airlines may also rebook passengers on the next available flight to their destination at no additional charge. This may not be the next flight (a delay sometimes may take up to a few days), and may include flights on other airlines.
Should you be delayed for more than two hours, you may receive a meal voucher from the airline. If your rebooked flight requires an overnight stay, the airline will likely issue a hotel voucher accepted at certain airport hotels. However, these issues should be settled with the airline representative.