From the Atlantic Wire, an interesting article on a common airline practice that non-elites have certainly become accustomed to.
People know that when an airline tells you that you have a ticket but no seat assignment, you’re likely doomed for a middle seat in the bowels of the plane or will get bumped to another flight. It turns out airlines that know this, too, and have been creating artificial shortages to get you to spend more money to book a seat you may not even need… Think about that: one available middle seat in the back of the plane, when, in reality, there were 40 more that were actually empty. And United’s not the only airline doing it, apparently Delta, U.S. Airways and American do this too.
Full article here.