United States airlines are bumping passengers at historically low rates

Randall Padilla
August 10, 2017

Airlines involuntarily denied boarding to 0.52 passengers out of every 10,000 from January through June, according to the department's monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.

That practice backfired in April when United employees, whose offers of vouchers were ignored, asked Chicago airport officers to help remove four people from a United Express flight to make room for airline employees commuting to their next flight.

In its report released Tuesday, the Department of Transportation also reported on-time performances for this year. The rate goes even lower for this year's second quarter:.44 per 10,000 passengers.

United Airlines spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the carrier has sharply reduced bumping since the April incident.

The website also states that airlines still have a legal right to involuntarily bump or deny boarding to passengers and "it is the airline's responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities".

United and other airlines have taken steps to reduce passenger bumping, including raising their incentive payment cap for voluntary denied bumping to $10,000. In April, a video showing a passenger being violently dragged off a United Airlines flight sparked outrage and highlighted the airline industry's controversial practice of overbooking flights.

Cancellations: About 1 percent of scheduled domestic flights were canceled in June 2017, up from 1 percent in June 2016 and 0.8 percent in May.

Travelers were least likely to be bumped on JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

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.

However, Southwest Airlines said in late April that it has made a decision to end the practice of overbooking flights, joining JetBlue, which has already done away with the practice. In addition, 1.09 percent of flights were canceled and 0.26 percent were diverted.

The most cancellations were at Spirit, JetBlue and ExpressJet.

Causes of flight delays: In June, 23.76 percent of flights were delayed: about 7 percent by aviation system issues; almost 9 percent by late-arriving aircraft; just under 6 percent by factors within the airline's control, such as maintenance or crew problems; less than 1 percent by extreme weather; and.04 percent for security reasons. That belonged to discount carrier Spirit Airlines by a wide margin.

In June, airlines reported six tarmac delays of at least three hours on domestic flights - compared with 27 such delays in May. June's incidents involved the death of one animal and injuries to two other animals. The 9,026 complaints during the first six months of the year was up 7.8% from the 8,375 during the same period a year earlier.

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