Proud to be a Volantian Series: Episode 1

July 27, 2022

Outside of working for a SAAS startup that provides solutions to airlines and businesses in the travel and entertainment industry, I’m just a person who loves to travel. I pay for the premium Scott’s Cheap Flights plan. I make a curated Google map for every city I visit. I have a bookshelf filled with books on obscure attractions, autobiographies of international chefs, travel diaries, linguistic histories, and more. I’m the American in Paris scouring markets for a guillotine keychain. I recently used my only off day on a work trip to take a 4 hour train to Gruyeres, Switzerland to go to the H.R. Giger museum, and to eat as much cheese as I could in a day. Because of this, I’m never surprised when I log in to social and get curated travel content, but I was surprised when I started getting airline overbooking consumer rights content.

Guests have always known about overbooking. We’ve all sat at a gate and listened as gate attendants desperately pleaded to move guests off the flight, offering higher and higher sums. We’ve all been annoyed at seeing the process, assuming that airlines are profiting off our inconvenience. And, now, because of social media, we’re learning our rights as consumers when it comes to overbooked flights. Within a week I was shown the following reel and sent an email entitled "How to get cash from overbooked flights."

Until I joined the travel industry, I was just as annoyed at overbooking as your average traveler. I assumed that airlines were fat cats using us, the guests, as a way to pad their bottom line. What I didn’t know was just how slim profit margins actually are for airlines and just how often they go out of business. I had never taken the time to understand that a full flight means less CO2 per passenger flown and just how much travel contributes to climate change. Lower emissions reported on my Google Flight purchase was always a nice-to-have, but never a major factor in my purchase.

Overbooking, unfortunately, for most airlines is a must. They hate to do it as much as we hate to experience it. It causes friction between airline departments. It makes gate agents into auctioneers. It creates involuntary denied boarding situations that are both expensive to resolve and that can become brand image nightmares.

As customers wise up to their rights surrounding overbooking, airlines who have solutions already in place will win this brand image battle. Maximized capacity will bring about better CO2 emission rates and take the burden off guests to have to choose between the cheaper flight or the more environmentally friendly flight. Overbooking profiles can increase while the embarrassing and expensive auction process becomes private and interactive, moving to guests’ phones instead of over an intercom at the gate. Technology is providing a way forward for overbooking that’s beneficial to guests and airlines, and I as a traveler am loving the brand-friendly, guest-centric, environmentally-conscious future of air travel.