Delta Punished For Breaking The Rules On Passenger Bumping

delta plane
Kentaro IEMOTO, Flickr

Delta has received a slap on the wrist for failing to properly compensate passengers who were bumped from their flights. The government handed the airline a $750,000 fine, saying the carrier had routinely mishandled overbooked flights by bumping passengers without asking for volunteers or compensating travelers.

Airlines regularly overbook flights since many passengers end up cancelling or changing their travel plans. If flights are still full when departure time rolls around, airlines typically ask travelers to volunteer for a later flight in order to avoid having to bump (and compensate) any passengers. However, not all travelers realize that they may be entitled to cash or understand the rules about it works.In general, if the alternative flight a bumped passenger is placed on arrives within one hour of when the original flight was scheduled to land, airlines don’t have to pay them anything. But according to U.S. federal regulations, passengers who are involuntarily bumped and will have their travel plans pushed out by more than an hour are entitled to at least 200 percent of the one-way fare to the destination (with a cap at $650). Compensation for longer delays maxes out at $1300.

This isn’t the first time Delta has been penalized for bungling how it deals with overbooked flights. The airline was fined back in 2009 for the same infraction.

Bump season is upon us

Spring break is upon us, ladies and gentlemen, which means that bump season is getting kicked into high gear. With the sudden spike in demand, airlines are going to be overbooking flights left and right, which means that casual travelers like you and I can take advantage of the system and start collecting vouchers for taking later flights.

Usually, the spring break bump season lasts through the entire month of March and into early April. Things die down or 6 – 8 weeks or so after that, then summertime travel hits and bumps increase in volume again. Bumptracker has some legacy data on this.

So if you’re flying in the next few weeks, take a look at seatcounter to see if your flight is oversold or near full. Plugging in your date and airline, you can tell if this is the case if there are all zeroes or mostly low numbers next to your flight. You can also ask at the gate or call the airline before departure; they’re obligated to tell you if the flight is oversold.

In case you’re worried about the ramifications of being bumped off a regularly scheduled flight, fear not — here at Gadling we’ve created a thorough guide to bumping, what it means, how to do it and how to work it to your advantage.

Check it out here.

Get out there and get kicked off some flights!