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Absolutely. To some degree I understand overselling†, and I also know that airlines don't know who's going to show or not, but passengers should be made aware and given options. With non-refundable tickets you're committed to the airlines, they should have a commitment to you. If they choose to oversell, they should be transparant and give you the option of adjusting your plans... Instead of pretenting you're on the flight but you're actually flying standby.

Frequent travelers know that getting a boarding pass with a seat number actually a race they don't want to lose, and will hound the call center if there's a problem with online check-in.

† Personally I think that airlines regulated and given two options for overselling flights:

1) If you miss your flight, and a paid passenger takes your place, you should be informed and not suffer financial consequences (re-booking fees, etc).

2) If the airlines has already sold a full flight and starts knowingly overselling, it should be communicated to the passenger when they buy the ticket ('priority standby' or something). This would, of course, make customers value these tickets less.

Yes, I can understand overselling as well, but it should be a gamble on the part of the airlines that they don't want to lose. It seems that in many places there are too few ramifications for losing this particular gamble.

I think the EU regulations regarding denied boarding are pretty good (or at least a good start).

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