Airlines Are Bumping Far Fewer People From Flights

Chelsea West
August 10, 2017

Only 5.2 per 100,000 passengers were involuntary denied boarding by 12 main US carriers in the first half of 2017, posting the lowest bumping rate in decades, an official report said on Tuesday.

On April 9, passenger David Dao was injured while Chicago Department of Aviation police officers forcibly removed him from a United plane bound for Louisville, Ky. That rate has since gone down for the second quarter of 2017 to 0.44 per 10,000 passengers.

Since the incident, United announced it was changing its bumping policy, increasing the maximum amount travelers may be paid for volunteering to be bumped from a flight to $10,000.

Airlines have routinely overbooked flights for years in the expectation that some passengers won't show up.

During the first six months of 2017, the rate of 52 boots per million passengers was also the lowest recorded for a January-through-June rate since 1995, according to the department.

The Dao incident resonated with the public because most people have been frustrated at one time or another by long delays, overbooked flights, or flights that are altogether canceled.

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The improvement came amid the worldwide firestorm of publicity in April, when United Airlines had a passenger dragged off a full flight in Chicago. "If the Department of Transportation won't hold the airlines to account for these practices, then Congress needs to step in and fix the problem". Hawaiian Airlines had the best rate, at 90.4 percent, and JetBlue Airways was the worst, at 60.6 percent. Previously, the lowest quarterly rate was 50 per million from July to September 2002.

The transportation report also looked at things like on-time performance, cancellation and other incidents. Spirit had the largest rate of canceled flights, at 4.1 percent, and Delta had the lowest, at 0.1 percent.

The department has launched an airline passenger website to make it easy for travelers to understand their rights.

Tarmac delays: In June, airlines reported six tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 27 delays in May. June's incidents involved the death of one animal and injuries to two other animals.

Incidents involving animals: In June, there were three incidents involving the death, injury or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the six reports filed in June of previous year, but up from the one report filed in May.

The department received 1,605 complaints about airline service during June, which represented a 9.8% decline from May, but 7.7% more than June 2016.

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