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After witnessing the disaster United faced this week after police physically dragged a passenger off one of its overbooked planes, Delta has decided to proactively change its own overbooking policies, authorizing gate agents and supervisors to offer up to $9,950 in compensation to passengers willing to volunteer to take a later flight in an oversell situation.
Gate agents who could previously only offer up to $800 in compensation will now be able to give as much as $2,000, while supervisors who were capped at $1,350 are authorized to go as high as an unbelievable $9,950.
Delta already has an excellent record when it comes to avoiding passenger bumps — in our report on The Best and Worst Airlines in the United States, the airline was second only to Hawaiian with just 1,238 people involuntarily bumped out of a total of 129 million passengers in all of 2016. So while the $9,950 maximum is obviously only intended to be used in the most extreme situations, the change clearly shows Delta’s concern about avoiding a scenario similar to the one United found itself in.
TPG listed improved compensation as one of the 4 Ways We Can Bring Humanity Back to American Aviation, so it’s good to see Delta — already a leader when it comes to avoiding involuntary bumps — empowering its front line personnel to offer higher compensation when it’s oversold a flight.
Meanwhile, American is also making adjustments to its overbooking policies. View From The Wing notes that the AA Contract of Carriage has recently been updated to specify that “American will not involuntarily remove a revenue passenger who has already boarded in order to give a seat to another passenger.” One of the many issues with United’s actions in #BumpGate was the fact that the passenger in question had already taken his confirmed seat on the plane and was being removed in order to make room for United crew members.
Unlike Delta, American doesn’t have a stellar record when it comes to involuntary bumps — it ranked eighth in that criteria out of the 10 airlines covered in our recent report with a ratio of 0.06 involuntary bumps out of every 1,000 passengers in 2016. That may not sound like much, but it’s six times as many bumps as Delta and roughly 50% more than United itself.
Finally, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz has already promised a “thorough review” of the events of the last week with the results to be communicated by April 30. However, on certain fronts the airline is not waiting to make changes. Munoz previously told ABC in an interview that in the future the airline will not use law enforcement “to remove a booked, paid, seating passenger,” and now TMZ is reporting that United has issued a new internal Scheduling Alert (PDF file) regarding crew with “deadhead bookings.” Effective immediately, deadhead bookings on oversold flights may only be made at least 60 minutes ahead of the estimated departure time. According to the Scheduling Alert:
“This is so the denied boarding process in an oversell situation may be implemented in a gate or lobby area and not on board the aircraft. … No must ride crew member can displace a customer who has boarded an aircraft.”
The Alert goes on to note that if a crew member does not already have a reservation on the flight and it is less than 60 minutes to departure, United’s Crew Scheduling department will book the crew member on the next available flight instead.
While the policy improvements by American and United are certainly welcome, since those two airlines routinely mimic Delta actions, it won’t be surprising if they both quickly follow Delta’s lead on this issue and offer increased compensation for bumps as well.
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