United States

American Airlines Has Bumped More Passengers This Year Than All Other US Airlines Combined

American involuntarily denied boarding to more than 3,400 passengers in the key three-month travel period from July through September

The U.S. Department of Transportation's latest data shows American Airlines has bumped more passengers this year than all other U.S. airlines combined.

According to the DOT, Fort Worth-based American Airlines denied boarding to more than 3,400 passengers from July to September.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines came in second in that same time frame, with just over 310 passengers bumped.

Bumping, also known as denied boarding, happens when there are more passengers scheduled on a flight than available seats.

It is not illegal for airlines to oversell their flights, but not all airlines engage in overbooking.

Before passengers are bumped, airlines must ask for volunteers.

If no volunteers accept compensation, the criteria used to bump passengers includes: what time you checked in for your flight, how much you paid for your flight and your frequent flier status.

American Airlines said their increase in bumped passengers stems from many of its aircraft being taken out of service, including the grounded Boeing 737 Max jets.

Bigger jets have been getting swapped out for smaller planes, thus leading to fewer seats.

If planes are swapped out, bumped passengers are not eligible for compensation unless they are in first class, according to Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.

Seaney reacted to data, indicating American's uptick in bumping passengers.

"I was sort of surprised in overbooking, just generally, because there's a trend in the industry to not overbook at all," he said. "Especially when the DOT put in some new rules where you can get up to $1,300 in cash almost instantly if you know how to ask for it in time."

When it comes to domestic flights where a passenger is involuntarily denied boarding, if you are delayed one to two hours, you can get up to $675; delayed over two hours and you can get up to $1,300 or more if the airline accepts.

"If you happen to be one of the ones that gets picked involuntarily, ask for cash," Seaney said. "If you ask for cash, they're required by DOT regulations to provide that and then you can go get your ticket elsewhere."

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