A report issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) yesterday showed that last year, 63,878 passengers were denied boarding on 18 different U.S. carriers due to oversold flights. According to USA Today, that's an 11-year high. Delta led the charge with 16,691 forced bumps followed by Southwest with 11,288. JetBlue had the lowest rate, with only 43 forced bumps last year.
Airlines typically oversell flights because of the number of passengers who don't show up at the last minute. That works well for them financially—unless all the passengers who booked tickets actually show up. In some cases, passengers are asked to volunteer for bumps in exchange for a free flight voucher or other credit. In other cases, bumping is forced.
In years past it was easier for the airlines to find alternative flights for bumped passengers. This year, however, with many flights flying at or near capacity, it was harder to find empty seats on later flights for bumped passengers. For some travelers, that meant being delayed a day or more rather than a few hours.
USA Today reports that the DOT is considering changing involuntary bumping rules, including doubling the maximum amount of compensation airlines would have to provide bumped passengers. Airlines would be required to give passengers up to $800, depending on the length of the delay and the final destination. In the meantime, check out SmarterTravel.com's bumping guide to find out how to avoid being bumped in the first place.