In light of the horrifying situation that took place on United Flight 3411 on April 9 2017, Wendover Productions put together an informative video that logically explains the reasoning used by airlines to overbook flights and how they determine which passengers are selected to be removed from the plane if there are no volunteers to do so.
When airlines do have to involuntarily select individuals to offload, they’ll often use a hierarchical system—choosing the individuals that supposedly have the least merit to be on the flight or least value to the airline on paper. Normally a computer will pick those who checked in last and have no or low frequent flier status. So, if you check in early, even online, select a seat, and get your boarding pass, you’re much more likely to fly on your flight. In addition, having a frequent flier account, even if you don’t use it much, will improve your odds over the majority of people who don’t have one at all.
Wendover Productions had previously written about “The Economics of Airline Class“