Overbooking: permissible when and only when scaled up

Roy Sorensen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bumped from a flight? Relax with this defense of the big business practice of deliberately promising more services than one will provide. On a small scale, over-promising yields a toxic moral dilemma and a lie. At a large scale, the dilemma becomes dilute, and the lie completely disappears. Overbooking is honest because there is a sufficiently high probability of fulfilling each promise. Overbooking is socially beneficial because the promised resources are used more efficiently. There are fewer wasted seats on jumbo jets and hence cheaper tickets with less pollution. Widespread disapproval of overbooking is a fallacious scaling error. Instead of there being too much overbooking, there is too little.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
VolumeEarly View
Early online date18 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jun 2023


  • Lying Promise
  • Moral dilemma
  • Scale effect
  • Big Business
  • Inefficacy Objection


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