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Delta fined US$750k for ‘bumping’ passengers off overbooked flights

By David Flynn     Filed under: Consumer rights, Delta Air Lines

US carrier Delta Air Lines has been slugged with a US$750,000 fine for moving passengers off overbooked flights without offering compensation.

It’s the second time US Transportation Department has fined the Virgin Australia partner for this practice, following a US$375,000 penalty issued in 2009 for similar violations.

Like most domestic US airlines Delta sells more tickets than it has seats on certain flights, knowing that for a variety of reasons a certain percentage of travellers won’t turn up.

However, when the numbers run against those historical predictions and a flight suddenly has more passengers than seats, airlines typically ask for volunteers willing to be bumped onto the next flight – usually by offering inducements ranging from frequent flyer points and business class upgrades to travel credit vouchers.

But if no travellers volunteer the airline itself has to choose who gets bumped and provide cash compensation accordingly – at up to 400% greater than your one-way fare (to a $1,300 maximum).

Delta broke the rules on both counts, says the Transportation Department: failing to call first for volunteers, and then not offering any compensation to those who drew the short straw.

The Transportation Department reviewed over 300 complaints about how Delta handled overbookings between November 2010 and January 2012.

After investigation, it says it found several cases where Delta not only failed to inform bumped passengers about their rights to compensation but also classified some passengers bumped involuntarily as having chosen to give up their seats.

Delta maintains these were isolated incidents and that employees are now being trained on how to handle overbooked flights. The airline also plans to issue tablet computers to gate staff to help manage passenger offloads from overbooked flights.

What’s your experience with being bumped off flights, and what compensation have you received?

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 2/7/13 by TheRealBabushka

"...The airline also plans to issue tablet computers to gate staff to help manage passenger offloads from overbooked flights."

Looks like governments are not the only ones throwing money buying expensive hardware to provide the illusion that problems are being fixed! LOL

2 on 2/7/13 by aero-seat

This seems to happen most in the US. I have been 'bumped' off voluntarily from United Airways on my leg from LA to Chicago but luckily I got an economy 'plus' upgrade (from my plain economy seat), a food voucher and additional frequent flyer points for a flight that was half an hour later. I personally think that was okay but carriers that don't offer a reward at all should be treated with a fine.

3 on 2/7/13 by Poisson

I wish I had been bumped on one AA flight years ago. JFK - LHR  They called for volunteers but I chose to remain on my booked flight... which then developed a technical problem part way across the Atlantic and turned back. Not back to NY, mind you, but Chicago.  No compensation was offered, just a night at the Holiday Inn. It ended up costing me a full day in London. :(

4 on 5/7/13 by Natalia

been bumped off Austrian airlines at CDG, plane was triple-booked as they said. After negotiations with the manager, they put us on other flight on Air France 4 hours later plus paid us EUR350 each , restaurant voucher and phonecalls to notify the relatives... not bad for 4 hours of waiting, my husband said we could wait for another 4 hours, hahaha... As far as I know, other passengers who did not "argue" with the manager, did not recieved anything as they been told they have been late for boarding...

 

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