MANY airlines habitually overbook flights, working on the assumption that a few passengers will always cancel at the last minute. By selling more tickets than seats, they can ensure their flights are full even when there are no-shows.
Sometimes that calculation misfires and airlines have to bump passengers. There is a right and a wrong way to do this. The option United Airlines plumped for on April 9th would strike most as the wrong way.
According to the Courier-Journal, after passengers had boarded a service from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, the airline discovered that it needed to fly some stand-by employees to Louisville for a flight the following day. When no passengers accepted an offer of $400 to be placed on a later flight, it upped the ante to $800 (plus a night in a hotel).