‘No-shows’ lead to overbookings…as airlines bear cost of boarding denials


The increase in ‘no-shows’ recorded by airlines operating in Ghana has led to an increase in overbookings by airlines as they strategise to avoid flying empty planes to various destinations around the world.

A “no-show” refers to when a passenger – someone who has purchased a ticket – has not advised an airline that he/she will not be able to make the flight they are booked on. ‘No-show’ passengers just do not show up for their outbound flight on the scheduled day of departure.

B&FT analysis of airlines’ passenger volumes show that there is a growing trend of airline passengers who either do not show up at all or show up after check-in counters of various airlines have closed and requisite documentations submitted to authorities in preparation for take-off.

A major European carrier recorded as many as 400 ‘no-show’ passengers in one month. For long-haul carriers operating flights from Accra-Ghana, to Europe, North America, Asia and Middle East recorded an average of 200 ‘no-show’ passengers per month.

Based on the pattern of ‘no-shows’, airlines also over book their flights to cover for the prospect of passengers simply not showing up for their flight at the last minute.

Dick van Nieuwenhuyzen, Country Manager Air France-KLM, told the B&FT: “What we have noticed is that passengers are coming in at the very last moment. They come in having not done any online check-in.

“If passengers do an online check-in, the check-in procedure goes much-faster as passengers just have to drop off their bags. This helps to avoid issues like denied boarding because the passenger already has their boarding card with their seat number, so we cannot deny boarding.”

Depending on the type of air ticket, travelers might have to pay a fine for not showing up for their flight. Connecting flights associated with that particular booking may be cancelled altogether, so as to minimise wastage of seats on flights.

Passengers who show up late, by which time a passenger in the ‘overbooked’ category might have taken up available vacancy, are compensated and put on the next available flight. Compensation varies per the terms of carriage attached to tickets issued by airlines to their passengers.

Dutch carrier KLM recently paid €600 (euros) as compensation to pay passengers who were denied boarding due to overbooking on an Accra to Amsterdam flight on Saturday, January 6, 2018.

Sixteen (16) passengers were affected, of which 13 went home and three were booked in a hotel on the original departure date. Arrangements were made for them to travel on the next available flight on January 7, 2018.

Lisbon-based carrier TAP Portugal also compensated passengers who were denied boarding on an Accra-Sao Tome flight over the festive period.


Airport congestion

Given that major long-haul carriers depart Accra’s Kotoka International Airport (KIA) between 8pm and 11pm, and there is on-going work on the New Terminal Three (3) that has led to closure of a link road to the KIA, the facility is very busy every evening.

“In the evening there is congestion at the airport. Most airlines are leaving between 9:30pm and 11pm in order to arrive at various European destinations early morning the next day. This means the airport cannot handle the influx of passengers. Nowadays, it is a disaster getting to the airport because of the traffic and on-going works. It is delaying passengers and also delaying check-in processes.

“If you are stuck in traffic or have a flat tyre, the airline doesn’t know about that and it is not its fault. A passenger must be on time to check-in or drop off their bags. Passengers must leave the house on time and be at the airport at least two or three hours before the time of departure,” Mr. Nieuwenhuyzen said.

He added that: “Passengers should try and do an online check-in using their phones to avoid the risk of being denied boarding. Others also get their boarding cards and step out to go have a drink with family and friends, and then show up at the boarding gate very late. When that happens, an airline will be delaying over 300 passengers all because of one passenger. These 300 passengers have very short connecting times and need to be on time to catch their connection flights”.

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