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They could even offer a premium price to guarantee your flight

They do -- they call it a "full fare ticket" -- airlines bend over backwards to accommodate these full fare fliers, even if it means bumping a paid economy passenger from the flight. Though it's a pretty steep fee -- usually several times more than the restricted fare.

The SkyTeam alliance guarantees its frequent fliers (people who hold SkyTeam Elite Plus status) that they can buy a full Y-class fare on a completely sold out flight and they'll kick someone else off to put them on.

BA do this, although only in economy I think. It’s a 24 hour minimum too. I’ve never needed it.

I’ve booked on fully sold flights in a full fare class a few days before and the wait list clears, often in a few hours.

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