The U.S. Department of Transportation has assessed a civil penalty against Delta Air Lines of $750,000 for violating federal rules on bumping.
DOT: Delta Broke the Rules
According to the DOT, the fine stems from series of incidents going back to March 2012 in which the airline allegedly oversold some flights – which in itself is a not uncommon practice and one that is perfectly legal. However, it’s how the carrier handled the incidents from there that’s at issue. According to the feds, this is what the airline did wrong:
- Delta failed to seek volunteers before bumping passengers involuntarily, or bumped passengers involuntarily without providing them a written notice describing their rights
- Delta then classified some passengers who were bumped involuntarily as having volunteered to give up their seats
In Delta’s defense, it should be noted that government statistics over the past few years indicate the carrier has shown some improvement in involuntary denied boardings numbers, and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics recently reported just 8 complaints about oversales were lodged against Delta while United received 12 (American and US Airways received 4 each). This does not however necessarily include the number of complaints lodged directly with the airline.
What’s the Difference? Voluntary, Involuntary Bumping
There is a big difference in being voluntarily and involuntarily bumped as most veteran travelers know.
- Voluntary bumpees choose to give up their seats in exchange for some kind of compensation offered by the airline – a bargain is made, in other words
- Involuntary bumpees are forced to give up their seats, but according to federally mandated passenger protections, they do have certain rights which may include payment
Rights for Involuntarily Bumped Passengers
These rights include receiving a set amount of compensation which ranges from $650 up to $1,300, and passengers have the right to receive this compensation in cash. Note: Zero compensation is offered if the involuntarily bumped traveler is put on a substitute flight that arrives within one hour of the original arrival time.
If you are bumped against your will – and it’s rare but it happens – know your rights. These are spelled out in the DOT’s Air Consumer Guide. You can be bumped but you need not walk away empty-handed.
What Delta Says
FareCompare contacted Delta about the fine and a spokesman said they are continuing “to invest heavily in technology to prevent oversold flights” just as they are continuing to train employees so they will always “properly communicate a complete understanding” of the rules covering denied boardings.