In a First, Delta Did Not Involuntarily Bump a Single Flyer Last Quarter

Jul 11, 2019

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During the height of the busy spring travel season, Delta Air Lines didn’t involuntarily bump a single passenger.

Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian singled out the milestone Thursday during the company’s quarterly earnings call, saying it marked a first for the Atlanta-based carrier.

Bumpings, technically “involuntary denied boardings” in aviation parlance, is high on the list of travel nightmares for most passengers. As Delta aims to distinguish itself as a customer-focused airline, the achievement was important enough for Bastian to mention in his opening remarks.

What makes the statistic all the more noteworthy is it coincides with high load factors for the airline. Delta has seen a spike in ridership so far this year as some of its competitors struggle to fill gaps in their schedules resulting from the global grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX.

Airlines across the board have become more aggressive in trying to appease travelers following the 2017 PR nightmare of Dr. David Dao being dragged off a United Express flight in Chicago.

In the wake of that incident, a number of airlines raised their limit for how much gate agents could offer to entice flyers on overbooked planes to take another flight. Some carriers, including Delta, now allow agents to offer up to $10,000 per passenger, though offers like that are exceedingly rare.

The announcement Bastian made Thursday shows how generous compensation —  largely in the form of future flight credits —  can be extremely effective in convincing passengers on oversold flights to volunteer to change their travel plans. It also underscores how reliable Delta’s operation has become in recent years.

Delta’s achievement also comes as American Airlines, the world’s largest passenger carrier, is facing something of a reliability crisis. It has had to cancel flights amid the MAX grounding, and an ongoing contract dispute with its mechanics has led to a rolling series of last minute delays and cancellations as aircraft are taken out of service with little warning.

Featured photo by Patrick T. Fallon/The Points Guy

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