Report: U.S. airlines bumping passengers at lower rate

By Allen Cone  |  Updated Aug. 8, 2017 at 5:15 PM
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Aug. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. airlines reported the lowest rate of passengers bumped in 22 years, during a reporting period that included a notable incident involving a man dragged off a plane in Chicago.

The rate of ticket-holders on 12 U.S. carriers denied a seat from April to June declined to 44 per million passengers, according to the Department of Transportation's Air Travel Consumer Report released Tuesday.

That figure was lower than the rate found during the same period last year, when 62 customers per million were involuntarily booted, according to the department. Previously, the lowest quarterly rate was 50 per million from July to September 2002.

During the first six months of 2017, the rate of 52 boots per million passengers was also the lowest recorded for a January-through-June rate since 1995, according to the department.

Spirit Airlines had the highest rate of booting passengers involuntarily at 125 per million passengers and JetBlue was the lowest at 4 per million during the last three months.

Airlines typically overbook flights because some passengers won't show up. If there are too many passengers at the terminal, they offer travel vouchers to encourage some to take a later flight.

During the past three months, 7,764 were involuntary denied a seat but 94,151 voluntarily accepted not boarding the flight.

Since an infamous incident this April, airlines have increased compensation to customers denied a seat and have also made other policy changes.

On April 9, passenger David Dao was injured while Chicago Department of Aviation police officers forcibly removed him from a United plane bound for Louisville, Ky. He was removed to make room for a flight crew member.

After video of the incident was posted online, United apologized for the incident and reached a settlement with Dao.

United bumped 1,064 passengers the last three months and its rate matched the industry average of 44 per million passengers.

In its report released Tuesday, the Department of Transportation also reported on-time performances for this year.

In June, 76.2 percent of flights arrived within 15 minutes of their schedules, compared with 79.1 percent in May and 78 percent in June 2016. Hawaiian Airlines had the best rate, at 90.4 percent, and JetBlue Airways was the worst, at 60.6 percent.

The carriers canceled 1.1 percent of their scheduled domestic flights this June, up from the 1 percent cancellation rate in June 2016 and the 0.8 percent rate in May. Spirit had the largest rate of canceled flights, at 4.1 percent, and Delta had the lowest, at 0.1 percent.

In June, airlines reported six tarmac delays of at least three hours on domestic flights -- compared with 27 such delays in May.

Airlines also reported a lower rate of mishandled baggage -- 2.65 reports per 1,000 passengers in June, down from June 2016's rate of 2.82. But it was up from May's rate of 2.32.

The department has launched an airline passenger website to make it easy for travelers to understand their rights.

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