Log In or Sign Up to Access Lesson Materials

Log In or Sign Up to Access Lesson Materials

Log In or Sign Up to Access Lesson Materials

In the fall of 2024, Citizen Math released updated versions of every lesson in our library, plus a few new ones! We know you may have already prepped an earlier version or planned a repeat of last year, so we're continuing to make these earlier versions available through Thursday December 5, 2024.

You can find the new lessons through the regular search, and we hope you love them as much as we do. You can read more about these updates in Our Community.

Should airlines overbook their flights? Airlines routinely sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane. This isn’t a problem if enough people miss the flight, but it can lead to major frustration if everyone shows up at the gate.

In this lesson, students use compound probability and expected value to determine the optimal number of tickets an airline should sell and discuss whether airlines should be allowed to overbook their flights.

- On average, less than 100% of passengers show up for flights. Airlines often overbook flights so that they’re not missing out on revenue on empty seats.
- If more passengers show up for the flight than there are seats on the plane, then some passengers may be involuntarily “bumped.” If this happens, the airline is required by law to pay them (in addition to rebooking them on another flight).
- Even with the penalties, airlines typically expect to make more money by overbooking the flights than by not.

- Calculate expected value and use it in decision making
- Calculate combinations and compound probabilities in a real-world context