Airline Overbooking: Customer (dis)Satisfaction and Communication Challenges


A frequent and potentially annoying occurrence in airline travel is the overbooking or “bumping” of passengers from flights that in turn affects customer satisfaction. Overbooking policies and the way overbooking is dealt with differs from one airline to another, from the United States to the European Union and beyond. Compensation, either monetary or another form of reimbursement, may ensure higher customer acceptance for overbooking problems. However, communicating overbooking situations, denied booking, and compensation policies in a timely and effective way could be an alternative solution. This case study suggests that customers may not always react negatively to overbooking, and airlines should revisit communication practices and draft new policies to offer customers a transparent procedure and an overall less stressful experience.

This case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind. This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes.

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