10:25 AM

Overbooking Madness.

I have just arrived from a whirlwind tour of California where I met with some great new clients and recharged with my son and his lovely new wife. Getting there was a non-event, but returning home last night from SFO was just unbelievable because Skywest 6412 was overbooked…again. While we were holding seat reservations, they would not give us seat assignments until we were staring the gate agent in the face. Turns out they had sold five more seats that a CRJ-700 actually has.

Sure, we could have taken them up on the offer of two free $600 coupons for flight anywhere in the lower 48 states, a free hotel room, shuttle to the hotel and free breakfast, but I really just wanted to get home.

In what other business can they sell stuff that is not really available? Thank God the airlines don’t run the hamburger joint down the street:

Customer: “I’d like the double bacon cheeseburger, please.”
Counter Geek: “Sure, that’ll be two bucks. But you cannot actually EAT the burger now.”
Customer: “Why not?”
Counter Geek: “Because we sold 20 burgers, but we only have 18 patties. So we will take your money now, and you can stand over there and wait to see if we actually can cook your burger.”
Customer: “But I have a receipt here that says I get to eat one burger.”
Counter Geek: “But we’ve overbooked the kitchen. Yes, your receipt shows you paid for one burger, but we always sell 20% more burgers that we actually have, figuring that a few people will not show up at the counter to actually claim their burger, despite paying for it and being really, really hungry.”
Customer: “That’s insane. So what happens if you cannot fry up my burger?”
Counter Geek: “Our burger overbooking policy is to give you a voucher for dinner at the fancy steakhouse across the street. We’ll drive you over there in our shuttle, and even buy you dessert afterwards.”
Customer: “That makes no business sense whatsoever. You can’t deliver a two dollar burger, so you buy me a twenty dollar steak?”
Counter Geek: “I know it seems nuts, but our chain is so big, we can do this over and over, and not everyone takes us up on the free steak offer. When they just get pissed and walk out, we keep their two bucks and have made a nice fat profit.”
Yes, we did get our seats, and lived to fly another day. But each time I hear that my flight is “overbooked” I just cringe thinking of how bad that makes the airline look. I just hope the burger chains never catch on to this profit machine.

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