How is it that airlines are allowed to sell a product that they  might not ever let you use? That is just baffling to me.

If I did that there would be police involved and I'd get my picture made holding a sign with numbers on it.

But, I am not an airline. Airlines get to play by different rules and because they have us by the short hairs we have to play by their rules.

The practice I am speaking of is called overbooking and if you've ever had to fly back into a city like Lafayette, Lake Charles or Shreveport, you know what I am talking about.

You will hear the call in the gate asking for "volunteers" with flexible travel plans who are willing to give up their seats on the flight in question. This doesn't happen sometimes, it happens every time, how is it possible?

From the airlines' point of view, overbooking is a way to manage revenue. It seems rude but it's not against the law. They have a mathematical formula that helps them determine the percentage of people that will not be showing up for a flight. The reason people don't show up for flights is because the airlines give certain flexibility to frequent travelers and better customers.

This practice allows those high dollar travelers to skip or change a flight with hardly any penalty. These no-shows will result in lost revenue. Therefore, the airline overbooks the flight so they won't have empty seats.

For the occasional traveler like you and I this can put us in a bind. Since most of us don't get the frequent traveler flexible perks or we try to save a buck or two by booking a discount fare, we are stuck hoping we checked in on time or our connecting flight didn't cause a problem for us.

According to industry and travel experts, the only way to ensure that you won't be bumped on an oversold flight is to check in early, get your seat assignment and boarding pass as soon as you can. You could also pay for an expensive ticket or be a "platinum" member of the carriers' loyalty reward program.

Now for my two cents, I think the practice is wrong. If I buy a seat on a flight I have done so because that flight best fits my travel plans. I don't think because I was last to arrive to check in should negate the fact that the airline has charged my credit card and is holding my money.

In my shallow mind, I am thinking, I have paid for a service and I expect that service to be delivered at the prearranged time. Much like your doctor wants to be paid before you get to spend your three minutes with him.

Those that know the airline industry much better than I do say doing things the way I would like them done will actually result in more expensive fares and reductions in service. I don't see how but those with accounting and business acumen say it is the case.

My advice, always fly out of your hometown airport. The more you fly from home the more like airlines will schedule flights to your town.  Always check in and get your seats and boarding pass as soon as you can. With email, you can do that 24 hours in advance and most airlines will send you a notice that it's time to check in so do it. Unless you're flying Delta and soon American.

Those airlines intend to "penalize" travelers who book the least expensive flights by making their travel plans a lot more uncertain. Okay, penalize is the wrong word. They just want to make your experience with their company as close to a living hell as they possibly can without involving lawyers. When you look at all the add on fees and assorted restrictions they place on the "basic economy fare" I am surprised there isn't a pay toilet on the plane.

Here's another tip for you, always build some flexibility into your travel plans. Sometimes it is Mother Nature that puts a kink in the colon and not the airlines. It's always good to have a plan B, or C or D. And my final bit of advice, travel often. It opens your mind and helps you learn more about who you are. It also helps you appreciate the best destination of all, home.

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