Bumping Passengers Up At Airlines

2010 May See Biggest Number Since 2001

By Kevin Cokely
|  Monday, Jul 5, 2010  |  Updated 6:49 PM CDT
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You Might be Left at the Gate

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DFW Airport registered 68 passenger complaints from January 2003 to September 2006.

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You Might be Left at the Gate

Flights for the summer are packed and that means more and more passengers are being left at the gate.
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Shari Spitzer of Kaufman didn't want to wind up like her sister-in-law and her family, bumped from their flight home from the Netherlands.

"Very disruptive to their plans," says Spitzer. "They had to go out and buy dog food because they did not have that. And they had to buy some extra baby food and extra diapers. They did not plan to spend an extra 24 hours there and their bags were checked at the airplane."

To make sure everyone got seats on their flight to Ohio, Spitzer got her family to DFW airport early.

"It's a pecking order," says travel expert Rick Seaney with farecompare.com. "So I mean VIP status, depends on what class of ticket you purchased. So if you're a family of four you know buying the cheapest airfare and you haven't checked in until late, you're the top on the list."

With most planes now flying full, many more passengers are discovering even a boarding pass they bought and paid for is no guarantee they'll get on the plane.

Seaney says the reason is simple. "Basically pent up demand for summer. Last year, nobody wanted to fly. This year, everybody's flying, planes are completely full. Airlines are booking a little bit earlier than they were last year so they're worried some people may not show up for their seats so they're going ahead and overbooking some of these flights."

In the first three months of this year alone, 220 thousand passengers in the U.S. were bumped, putting 2010 on track to see the biggest number in 9 years.

And with airlines unlikely to add many more flights after making deep cuts, bumping may only become more common.

"I think for fall you're gonna have a little bit of a break but for the holiday season as we head toward Thanksgiving and Christmas you're going to see a lot of this bumping occur," Seaney said. "You absolutely have to book early and confirm those seats as early as possible."

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