Delta Air Lines was allegedly forced to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to encourage volunteers on an oversold flight to ‘bump’ themselves off the flight and onto a later service.
The expensive overbooking mistake occurred on Delta flight DL3550 from Grand Rapids to Minneapolis which is operated by Skywest on a small Embraer 175 regional jet on Monday morning.
Delta’s revenue management team had allowed more tickets to be sold than there were seats on the presumption that not every passenger would show up. Unfortunately, for Delta at least, everyone who booked a ticket did turn up at the airport in time so someone had to be bumped.
After United’s infamous Dr David Dao incident in 2017, airlines go out of their way to persuade passengers to voluntarily bump themselves for an oversold flight using financial bribes.
After the Dr Dao debacle, both United and Delta upped the maximum compensation to $10,000 per passenger.
It’s incredibly rare for passengers to actually be offered this amount and airlines will generally go in with a low offer to see if there are any takers. Factors that can influence the amount of compensation on offer include the wait between the next service, other rerouting options and whether events or holidays are on.
Overselling a flight is a pretty standard industry practice to maximize returns using algorithms that predict when passengers aren’t going to show up. Although Monday’s payout would make it seem like it costs airlines more in compensation, it’s a gamble that most airlines win more than they lose.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.