A pretty crazy situation happened the other day when Japan Airlines had an overbooking situation on their hands but apparently didn’t get around to handling it properly, resulting in the full cancellation of the flight.
Ground staff spend so much time trying to resolve the situation that the Haneda-Fukuoka flight got delayed and eventually missed a curfew for landing at FUK airport, requiring the flight to be cancelled.
Japan Airlines has contacted passengers on that flight and uploaded an apology notice on their website outlining the situation.
On JL335 (HND-FUK) scheduled on November 21, 2018, seat reservations exceeded the number of available seats, causing a lack of seats. In response, JAL took action such as asking passengers with flight bookings to transfer to another flight voluntarily. However, as it took time to coordinate, departure from Haneda Airport was significantly delayed and it became uncertain whether the flight would arrive at Fukuoka Airport by the curfew. Therefore, the flight was cancelled.
That is absolutely crazy. JAL knew about this situation hours before was due to depart and still ended up checking people in who then of course stood at the gate waiting for their departure.
Usually JAL and ANA both have very good yield management and overbooking in such numbers is extremely uncommon, probably to the degree that the staff was totally surprised by it and didn’t actually know what to do.
Instead of bumping the required amount of passengers and not checking them in JAL now had to deal with a full load of passengers that needed to be accommodated. The flight was originally operated with 3-class 777-200 that has 375 seats (14F, 82J, 279Y) plus whatever the amount of overbookings was. Beautiful! Trying to find close to 300 hotel rooms (since many of the passengers travel as a couple/family) around Haneda is quite a challenge as there aren’t that many airport hotels to begin with.
JAL now offers passengers a compensation settlement for the situation and incurred expenses for the overnight. Details about how much haven’t been published, only that passengers are supposed to contact a special customer service center.
The result from this lack of coordination can be seen here as total chaos ensued just because the ground staff wasn’t trained or simply too embarrassed to tell people they have been bumped off the flight.
Airlines around the world handle involuntary denied boarding situations every day and while not happy, passengers have to eventually accept it and receive a compensation from the carrier. Considering Japan’s corporate culture I’m sure someone will have to answer for this and it won’t be a pretty situation to say the least.