Skift Take

Perhaps U.S. airlines were too bump-happy before the United incident in April. Maybe it's a good thing that they've reduced their involuntarily denied boarding incidents. Remember, though, that overbooking serves a purpose: Not all passengers show up for every flight, yet airlines want to fill every seat.

After months of controversy last year triggered by the forcible dragging of a doctor off a flight in Chicago, airlines significantly cut down on bumping passengers.

U.S. carriers recorded the fewest number of bumped passengers in 2017 since the government began collecting data on the practice in 1995, the Department of Transportation reported Thursday.

Last year there were 23,223 people who had tickets but were “denied boarding,” usually because the airline had overbooked the flight and didn’t have room for them, according to a DOT report on airline consumer issues. That is 0.34 percent of all passengers, and it’s almost half of the level in 2016, 0.62 percent.

United Airlines, the carrier which insisted on removing a Kentucky doctor from a flight last April in Chicago, recorded the third best rate last year among U.S. airlines. It bumped 0.23 percent of its 93.8 million passengers, or 2,111 people, according to DOT.

After the United dragging case spawned public outrage, airline executives were called before Congress and lambasted.

Delta Air Lines had the lowest rate of all U.S. carriers, only 689 bumped passengers or 0.05 percent. Spirit Airlines Inc. was at the bottom of the list of 12 carriers that report data to the government. Spirit bumped 1,887 people or 0.82 percent.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Alan Levin from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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Tags: airlines, overbooking, united airlines

Photo Credit: Passengers wait to board flights at Denver International Airport. Airlines in the U.S. recorded the lowest number of bumped passengers last year since the government started keeping track in 1995. David Rutledge / Flickr