As you will have read in September’s historical Snapshot page, airline overbooking today is as rife as it was in 1990.
Airlines overbook to counter the “no show” factor which can lead to planes departing with empty seats and hence loss of revenue.
But most overbooking occurs in economy and business class. Many, if not most, airlines consider it taboo to overbook their first class cabins — they dare not risk upsetting their most important and influential customers.
Yet this is seemingly a risk which German national carrier Lufthansa is now prepared to take.
Lufthansa has begun trialling a first class overbooking policy on selected routes to “better utilise the high priced luxury class”, according to news magazine Der Spiegel.
Examples of the services in question are those departing Frankfurt for certain destinations such as New York, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Miami, Sao Paulo and Singapore.
According to Der Spiegel, where there is an overbooking situation Lufthansa passengers are told by prepared statement that: “Technical problems in our booking system have led to an extremely rare case of simultaneous reservation assumptions. My colleagues are already busy trying to find an optimal solution so that such cases are excluded in the future.”
Since the trial started, says Der Spiegel, Lufthansa claims it has not left any first class passengers behind.
But if a first class passenger on an overbooked flight does end up getting downgraded, he or she will not be happy seeing as the majority of Lufthansa’s fleet does not provide flat bed seats in business class.
Lufthansa said in a statement: “Since July, we have been testing controlled overbooking of our first class in order to further improve occupancy in this class.
“There is the possibility to overbook by two seats only until 30 days prior to departure. This leaves us with room to still react during these 30 days and to offer alternatives to our customers.
“The ongoing test has shown that with this procedure we were able to improve occupancy and at the same time avoid overbooking of our first class. Since the start of this trial in July there hasn’t been any case in which we had to rebook customers into another classes.”