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Why do airlines sell more tickets for a flight than there are seats on an airplane (overbooking)?

 More often than not, not everyone shows up for a flight. People get stuck in traffic, catch an earlier flight, arrive late on a connecting flight or whatever. Airlines keep good records of how many people typically "no-show" for a flight, so they make a good estimate of the number of seats they can "oversell", so when they do "oversell" the airplane departs more often than not with a full airplane. Sometimes, however they get it wrong and there are not enough seats for everyone. In this case the airline will re-accommodate you on a later emptier flight (if your plans are flexible), and reward you with a $200 (e.g.) voucher. Airlines have figured out that giving vouchers with a face-value of $200 is much cheaper than denying a passenger the opportunity to buy a seat for say $500.






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