@DoIevenmatter Tweeted me a link to a Business Traveller article about Lufthansa trial overbooking first class, and asked if it worries me. While overselling economy and business class is fairly common, it’s rare to oversell first class. After all there are fewer seats and it’s a bit more “high stakes” to deny a passenger a ticket when they paid $20,000 for it.
Per the article, the cities where they seem to be trialing this include New York, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Miami, Sao Paulo and Singapore. They go on to say:
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.”
While this might seem incredibly customer unfriendly, in reality I think the fact that nobody has been bumped under the new overbooking program says it all. The key here is that they’re only overbooking 30 days (or more) out. Keep in mind that unlike most economy class tickets and many business class tickets, virtually all first class tickets are refundable, so out of eight passengers it’s almost guaranteed that some passengers will cancel or change their flights within a month of departure.
And if they’re not, they can reach out to the passengers closer to departure and offer them an alternative that’s mutually beneficial. I’d be willing to bet they’ll never involuntarily deny a first class passenger boarding under this strategy. After all, they’d still come out ahead offering a first class passenger a seat on a different routing and several thousand dollars cash, for example, than not overbooking at all.
But the reason this is even less concerning as an award passenger is because whether a flight is booked full in first class or whether it’s overbooked by two people in first class really doesn’t impact us – regardless there won’t be any award space. The flights we see award space on are mostly the ones that consistently have 6-8 empty first class seats just a couple of weeks out (which is the case more often than you’d think).
My guess is that it’s extremely rare that they’re even overselling since there aren’t many routes where there’s actually that much demand for first class (and I assume when they’re overselling it’s only at the absolute full fare rate), but historical data almost never lies.
So I see nothing wrong with this and it certainly doesn’t bother me.