With all of the news of people getting booted from flights on United, Delta and others, I decided to take a closer look at Southwest’s overbooking policy. While the Southwest president vowed to stop overbooking with the need decreasing as they update their reservations system, according to an article, officially Southwest does overbook.

Why Southwest Overbooks

Southwest overbooking

Southwest says it overbooks, which means selling more seats than are actually available on an aircraft, due to passengers who don’t show up for the flight or don’t cancel their reservations prior to the flight’s departure. According to Southwest, “the majority of overbooked flights depart with empty seats because the formula we use to derive our booking levels is carefully applied and quite conservative.”

If you are worried about being booted from a flight — and who wouldn’t be after all the publicity of late — you can call Southwest at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792) to find out if your flight is overbooked. Of course, I’m not sure what you can do it about other than just be aware that someone might be asked to get off the flight!

What Happens When a Southwest Flight is Oversold

A flight is officially “oversold” when more customers check in on Southwest and arrive to board than there are seats on the plane.

The first thing Southwest will do is ask for volunteers who are willing to take a later flight. If you volunteer, and they rebook you on a Southwest flight that arrives within two hours of your originally scheduled flight’s arrival time, you will get a Southwest voucher for $100 + the value of your one-way flight coupon.

If they cannot rebook you within two hours of your original flight’s arrival time, they will put you on priority standby and give you a $300 Southwest voucher + the value of your one-way flight coupon. They will either get you on a flight on standby or confirm you on a later Southwest flight with no increase in fare.

So, what if no one volunteers? First, the airline says, “Southwest DOES NOT involuntarily deny boarding to any Customer who is holding a boarding pass, regardless of fare purchased, status in our frequent flyer program, or any other reason.”

The next step is to deny boarding to any passenger who does not yet hold a boarding pass (this is reason to check in on Southwest as close to 24 hours ahead of time as possible to get your boarding pass — and arrive early for your flight). This person will be given a written Notice of Denied Boarding to help them understand the airline’s policies, their compensation and travel alternatives.

If you are denied boarding due to not holding a boarding pass, they will rebook you on the next available flight. If the flight arrives to your destination — or stopover point — within two hours of your original flight arrival time, Southwest will give you a check or Southwest voucher for twice the value of your one-way flight coupon up to a maximum of $675.

If the rebooked flight arrives more than two hours after your originally scheduled arrival, they will compensate you four times the value of your one-way flight coupon up to $1350.

Here is a complete list of Frequently Asked Questions about overbooking on Southwest’s website.

What do you think about their overbooking policy? Have you ever been asked to leave a flight or seen someone who was?

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