Lowest rate of passenger bumping off from US domestic flights since 1995

Published on : Wednesday, August 9, 2017

planeAccording to a new federal report, US domestic airlines are offloading passengers from flights at the lowest rate since 1995 — a decline that may have been the fallout from an April episode in which a man was dragged off a United Airlines flight.

According to the Transportation Department, the 12 domestic carriers that report data on the number of passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding posted a bumping rate of 0.44 per 10,000 passengers during the second quarter of 2017. That was the lowest quarterly rate within historical records dating back more than two decades, officials said in a statement.

By comparison, the airlines posted a bumping rate of 0.62 per 10,000 passengers in both the second quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. The previous low had been 0.50, during the third quarter of 2002.

Bumping rates among the airlines that report their data have been trending downward since at least 2012, a review of the federal reports show. And although airline officials offered varying explanations for the most recent decrease, a United Airlines spokeswoman said the company had “absolutely learned” from the April 9 dragging episode.

But at the end of April, weeks after the dragging episode, the airline put several new customer-focused initiatives in place, including one aimed at decreasing overbooking and another allowing United employees to offer up to $10,000 in travel certificates to those willing to volunteer to change flights.

The new federal study, the Air Travel Consumer Report, also showed a sharp decrease in the number of passengers involuntarily bumped by Southwest Airlines in April, May and June. The airline posted a bumping rate of 0.64 per 10,000 passengers during the quarter, compared with 1.07 during the same period in 2016.

An airline spokeswoman said Southwest had rolled out a new reservations system on May 9 and had “stopped the practice of overselling flights, which contributed to the overall rate of decline in involuntary denied boarding.”

JetBlue Airways’ bumping rate plummeted to 0.04 during the second quarter of 2017, compared with a rate of 0.91 during the same quarter in 2016.

But in a statement, the airline said the decline had nothing to do with a policy change.


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