Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Actually getting a seat on a plane can be a real Mickey Mouse operation these days

Adding to air travelers' woes is the increasing frequency of bumping due to overbooked flights -- and the increasing severity of the consequences when it happens. Gone are the days when people cheerfully volunteered to be bumped, pocketed the compensation and took a later flight. These days planes are so full and schedules so tight, travelers sometimes have to wait days to get on another flight. Today's New York Times takes a look at overbooking and bumping.
A look behind the scenes of US Airways at the widespread practice of airline overbooking shows the industry’s struggle to fill every possible seat, including those left empty by the millions of passengers who buy a ticket but then do not show up.

The effort at times pits a group of young math whizzes at the airline against battle-tested gate agents, who are often skeptical of the complex computer models used to predict no-shows and to overbook flights.

Some agents even take matters into their own hands, creating phantom reservations — Mickey Mouse is a favorite passenger name, for example — to keep the math nerds at headquarters from overbooking a flight.

“It’s a little bit of black art,” said Wallace Beall, senior director for revenue analysis who oversees overbooking at US Airways.
Want to make sure you don't get bumped and stranded? Wouldn't it be great if there were a way to get on a flight with one of those phantom Mickeys aboard -- ideally, just to be safe, one on which he's brought his whole phantom family.

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