Involuntary Bumps on the Rise, Partially Due to 737 MAX Groundings

Jun 5, 2019

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Southwest Airlines and American Airlines each blamed the Federal Aviation Administration’s grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX for an increase in involuntarily “bumped” passengers during the first quarter of 2019, according to a monthly report by the US Department of Transportation.

Bumping —”involuntary denied boardings,” in the DOT’s vernacular — previously had been on the decline.

During the last quarter of 2018, the rate of involuntary denied boardings from oversold flights had dropped to a third of what it had been during the previous quarter. Overall,  the rate of involuntary bumping had dropped for five consecutive quarters, bottoming out at 0.1 per 10,000 passengers in the second quarter of 2018.

However, this month’s Air Travel Consumer Report from by the DOT showed a nearly 50% increase in the bump rate (0.32 per 10,000 passengers) in the first quarter of 2019 as compared to the last quarter of 2018.

Significant jumps were reported by American and Southwest, something that was attributed to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on March 13.

“American Airlines and Southwest Airlines separately informed the Department that the grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft has negatively impacted their
involuntary denied boarding statistics during this reporting period,” the government said in its report.

American and Southwest reported rates of .77 and .43 bumps per 10,000 passengers, respectively.

Still, neither airline was on the bottom of the DOT’s list. Travelers particularly averse to bumps should note that Allegiant Air, with their fleet of Airbus A320s scored the lowest with a bump rate of 1.47,. That was more than four times the national average for the January-to-March period.

Featured image: Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy.

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