U.S. Airlines Bumped Fewer Passengers in 2017 Than Any Other Year on Record
And it's not because overbooking went away.
Fewer people were bumped from their flights in the U.S. in 2017 than any other year since record keeping began in 1995, according to a new report from the Transportation Department.
Just one in 19,000 passengers was bumped from their flight in the period between January and June this year, the Associated Press reported.
Several airlines frequently overbook flights, expecting that a few people will be no-shows. When that doesn't happen, the airline will usually offer vouchers to encourage passengers to willingly give up their seat for a later flight.
Overbooking came to the forefront of the aviation industry this year after a passenger was dragged off a United Airlines flight in a video that went viral. While the issue there was not strictly one of overbooking — passenger David Dao was bumped to accommodate a crew member — the incident triggered a wider response among domestic airlines.
Many airlines, including United, dramatically increased the maximum compensation they could offer a passenger to give up his or her seat, up to $10,000. Delta said they would offer passengers up to $9,950 to give up a seat on an overbooked flight, up from a previous maximum of $1,350.
Of the 12 domestic carriers examined by the Transportation Department, Spirit Airlines was the worst offender of bumping passengers, with a rate of one per 10,000 people. Delta Airlines was least likely to bump someone, and United stood at the industry average.
United further revised their overbooking policy in July when the company announced it would inform passengers up to five days in advance if they were on a potentially overbooked flight, in an effort to get people to change their flights long before they even arrived at the airport. The passenger could reschedule for a flight within 24 hours of their original departure date and receive a $250 travel voucher.
The new policy, which is still in a preliminary phase, is also good for the company’s business practices, as they can offer the deal on flights that aren’t necessarily overbooked, so as to free up last-minute seats for business passengers who are more likely to pay a higher price, according to Bloomberg.