The Department of Transportation (DOT) hit Southwest with a $200,000 fine for improper procedures related to involuntary bumping.
Here’s what happened: Airlines are allowed to overbook because passengers sometimes fail to show up. In the event that everyone shows up, airlines are required to ask for volunteers to give up their seats. If no one volunteers, the airline will involuntarily bump as many passengers as it needs. These passengers are supposed to receive written notification of why they were bumped, and up to $800 in compensation.
It’s that last detail that got Southwest into trouble.
In the DOT report, the agency says Southwest failed to “tender cash or an immediately negotiable check for the appropriate amount of compensation on the day and at the place the denied boarding occurred to eligible passengers who were denied boarding involuntarily … pay eligible passengers who were denied boarding involuntarily the appropriate amount of denied boarding compensation specified in the rule … inform eligible passengers offered travel vouchers of the amount of cash compensation that otherwise would have been due to them … [and] furnish eligible passengers who were denied boarding involuntarily with a written statement explaining the terms, conditions, and limitations of denied boarding compensation.”
Southwest can apply $20,000 of the fine toward devising a better way of communicating its oversale policy to passengers, and informing bumped passengers of their rights.
Readers, have you ever been involuntarily bumped? Were you given the appropriate notification and fair compensation?