Airlines oversell their flights all the time. It’s intentional because a certain number of passengers usually don’t show or miss their planes for a variety of reasons.
That doesn’t always happen, of course, and sometimes when you arrive at the airport, you find that your airline has sold more seats on the plane than it has.
In most cases, the problem its relatively easy for the airlines to solve without massively inconveniencing their passengers.
DON’T MISS: Royal Caribbean Has Bad News For Passengers (and a Warning)
Usually, when a plane is oversold, the airline asks for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for some form of compensation (usually gift certificates for future flights). If nobody accepts the offer, it keeps raising the compensation offer until enough people accept.
The passengers who voluntarily get off the plane are then booked on the next available flight. If that flight is the next day, the airline generally pays for hotel rooms and gives the affected passengers meal vouchers.
The situation isn’t ideal but it generally enables passengers getting to their destinations within a day of their original arrival times.
But when a cruise line oversells a ship, the solutions aren’t quite as simple. That’s because many passengers have to fly to get to their cruises, and being bumped creates a ripple effect of problems. So cruise lines never intentionally oversell a ship.
Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Free Report, however, has recently oversold multiple sailings on both Wonder of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, with select overselling issues on other ships. And that’s led to some pretty expensive solutions.
Most Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been sailing at close to capacity, if not over it.
Image source: Daniel Kline/TheStreet
How Royal Caribbean Handles an Oversold Ship
Late last year, Royal Caribbean had a number of oversold sailings on Wonder of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship. In some of these cases, the issue wasn’t that there weren’t enough rooms, it was that certain categories had been oversold. When that happened, the cruise line sent an email to passengers, CruiseHive reported.
“We’re sorry to inform you that due to an unexpected inventory error, your scheduled Wonder of the Seas December 11th, 2022, sailing is currently oversold in certain stateroom categories,” the email read.
The cruise line, in this case, offered passengers the opportunity to move to interior rooms and receive full refunds. The passengers had to apply for the offer, and not everyone who was offered the deal was guaranteed to get it. The cruise line said that cancellations were still possible.
Allure of the Seas had similar issues on April 30 and May 14 sailings. In the case of the most recent sailing — a seven-night western Caribbean cruise leaving from Galveston, Texas — the cruise line offered passengers three options.
Move to either the June 3 or June 17 five-night sailing on Rhapsody of the Seas, have their full fare refunded, and get a $300 onboard credit. (That’s quite a step-down in ships.) Move to the July 16 or July 30 Allure of the Seas sailing with no refund or onboard credit. Cancel their cruise and receive a 100% refund and future cruise credit worth 100% of their original fare.
While all these offers are reasonable, even generous, they don’t solve the problem. Royal Caribbean has vaguely blamed inventory errors, but the reality is that the cruise line has to figure out how to stop cruises from being overbooked.
Forcing, or even enticing, customers to change their trips is a bad practice that’s dramatically more difficult than an airline bumping a passenger for a few hours or even a day.
To book a cruise, people have to schedule time off and, in many cases, make flight arrangements. Because of that effort, Royal Caribbean needs to take steps to stop this from happening or risk undermining customer confidence that the cruise they have booked will actually happen as planned.