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9/13/2010 18:37

I am an international traveller on a U.S. Airline (Continental Airlines/Micronesia).

Airlines such as Continental Airlines and Continental Micronesia has such a monopoly in certain areas that the Flight Dispatchers routinely authorize flights well beyond the configuration of the aircraft for destinations that are regularly full to capacity.

I believe that if the airlines put themselves in a position to experience an oversale situation then they should be held accountable for their actions. I believe that if the airlines have to resort to soliciting for volunteers, the compensation should be no different from voluntary and in-voluntary denied boarding. The compensation should just be one flat rate between the two categories. This will eliminate airlines from enticing customers to volunteer so they don’t have to render a high amount of compensation relative to the inconvienence of the passenger.

Provisions could require that in any instance that an airline authorized a flight to be oversold, they assume all liability for such a decision.

The bottom line should always be the protection and advocacy of the customer.

    9/13/2010 19:13

    Thank you for reading the summary, kdiego. This is not the place to argue your position. Now the goal is to ensure that the summary captures all the points that people made during the discussion. If you think something is unclear or wrong, please leave a comment on the section that you think needs work.

9/14/2010 11:23

I feel you forgot to add the point about international connections. I want to make it clear that anyone with an international connection should not and cannot be bumped, period. Regardless of how long their layover is at the connecting airport. International flights are much more expensive and much more troublesome to change, as there may be other connections to other countries.

9/14/2010 22:44

Oversales/bumping should be penalized in order to dissuade airlines from continuing the practice. But when it occurs, people who have bought non-refundable tickets should be the last to be bumped, only as a last resort.

If it becomes necessary, airlines should first look for volunteers and continue with those without reservations, those who arrived late and as a last resort, when necessary, use a lottery to level the field.

I do not consider justifiable giving preference for frequent flyers even though I belong to five and would likely benefit should the situation arrive.

    9/15/2010 00:10

    Thank you for reading the summary, yampalin. This is not the place to argue your position. Now the goal is to ensure that the summary captures all the points that people made during the discussion. If you think something is unclear or wrong, please leave a comment on the section that you think needs work.

9/15/2010 10:07

There should be a floor, or minimum compensation payment, for passengers whose tickets are relatively inexpensive. The floor should be high enough to be a disincentive to airlines to oversell flights.

    9/15/2010 11:59

    Thank you for reading the summary. Right now, our goal is to write the best possible summary of the discussion. If you think the summary is missing anything, please click on the paragraph you think needs work and suggest specific language to be added or changed.

Airline Passenger Rights "Ticket oversales/bumping"

Draft Summary of Discussion
By the Regulation Room team based on what people have said
Agency Documents
1 5


What’s Going on Here?

This is a summary of the discussion on the Ticket Oversales/Bumping post between June 2 and September 10.  (On September 11, the post was closed to further discussion.)  The summary was written by the Regulation Room team based on all the comments people made.  This version is a DRAFT. We need YOUR help to make sure that nothing is missing, wrong or unclear.

Important dates:

Sept. 13 – Sept. 19:  Comments can be made here on the draft
Sept. 20:  Commenting on the draft summary closed
Sept. 20 – Sept.  22:  Regulation Room team reviews comments and revises draft
Sept. 23:  Final Summary of Discussion is posted on Regulation Room and submitted to DOT Department of Transportation as a formal comment in the official rulemaking record.  (Sept. 23 is the last day of the official commenting period.)

Things to keep in mind as you read through the draft summary and make comments:

  1. The goal here is to give DOT the best possible picture of all the different views, concerns, and ideas that came out during the discussion.  This is NOT the place to reargue your position or criticize a different one.  Focus on whether anything is missing or unclear, not whether you agree or disagree.
  2. Rulemaking is not a vote. DOT is not allowed to decide what to do based on majority rule.  (Why? See Effective Commenting).  Approximate numbers are provided in the summary only to give DOT a sense of the frequency of views, concerns, and ideas.

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2 0 Who Participated in the Ticket Oversales/Bumping Discussion?

Ticket Oversales/Bumping generated a lot of discussion. 99 comments were made on this post:

  • 75 comments by 61 users
    (2 comments were gathered by site administrators from the site feedback page, and added to this post by the moderator.  No username was associated with these comments)
  • 24 comments by Regulation Room moderators

Commenters included primarily people who identified themselves as air travelers. Three who identified themselves as researcher/experts, one as working for a US air carrier, one as working for a travel agent or Global Distribution System (GDS), and three who described their interest as “other” also commented.

3 0 Better Information for Air Travelers

No commenter who addressed the issue is satisfied with manner in which airlines disseminate overbooking and bumping information.  A variety of suggestions were made for giving travelers better warning and more complete information about options:

  • Airlines should warn consumers in advance of the possibility of being bumped.  The possibility should be prominently disclosed on ticket sales websites, and should be printed on itineraries, boarding passes, etc.  Some commenters would like to have notices about possible bumping posted in airports.
  • Some commenters favor a requirement that consumers get advance notice if their particular flight is likely to be significantly oversold so that they can decide whether to make other plans–although one commenter points out that airlines might not know this until it is too late for passengers to make changes.
  • Announcements should be made to passengers awaiting boarding as soon as the airline knows there may be an oversale situation.  To give passengers time to consider how to respond, they should be clearly informed of their options, including the amounts of compensation paid and the alternate travel accommodations the airline will make for passengers who volunteer or are involuntarily bumped.  One commenter suggests that information about an oversale situation should also be posted on airline TV monitors.  Another asks for handouts outlining bumping rules and passenger rights to be available at the counter in English and multiple languages.
  • Airlines should also tell passengers what system will be used to resolve the oversold situation (see next section).

4 2 Methods of Handling Oversold Flights, and Transparency

Commenters agree that the airline’s first step in handling an oversold situation should be asking for volunteers.  Especially if the airline has announced in advance the various compensation and accommodation rights, many believe this step will often be enough to solve the problem.

If enough volunteers do not step forward in response to the gate agent’s request one commenter commends the Wall Street Journal article suggesting an auction system in which airlines would offer passengers on overbooked flights a gradually rising reward for giving up their seat.

Whatever method is used to select those who will be denied boarding, passengers should be informed of the selection criteria.  Commenters who addressed the issue agree with DOT’s suggestion that this information should include notice to passengers in danger of being involuntarily bumped of their situation, in enough time for them to decide whether to volunteer and take advantage of the higher compensation.

5 0 Compensation and Caps

Most commenters who addressed the current system of bumping compensation oppose caps.  About half of these commenters support compensating bumped passengers at 200% of the ticket price.  Some see this as appropriate to deter airlines from overselling.  Other commenters say that full ticket value is sufficient but the airline must also compensate bumped passengers for intangibles and/or housing.  A handful of commenters support the cap policy with automatic periodic adjustment for inflation.  One commenter considers a $400 cap sufficient; this commenter fears that the higher caps will give travelers a windfall, and thinks that $400 is a fair average of a one-way fare.

A few commenters are concerned that compensation based on ticket price will incentivize airlines to bump those who paid the lowest prices.  Some suggested paying all bumped passengers a uniform compensation amount, or paying them the prevailing market value.

One commenter argues that airlines should waive any cancellation fees if a bumped passenger chooses not to travel on another flight;  if airlines are unwilling to waive restrictions and give a full refund to bumped passenger with a nonrefundable ticket, then they should be allowed to bump only passengers traveling on refundable tickets.  Another supports imposing additional monetary penalties on airlines who bump passengers repeatedly.

One commenter is willing to accept a voucher as compensation but the others who addressed this issue supports a requirement that airlines offer the option of compensation in cash.  One commenter points out that bumped passengers may not have check-cashing privileges in the area; credit card credit would be the most secure solution, but only if the credit is immediately accessible to the passenger.

Finally, one commenter proposes that airlines should not be allowed to charge passengers until they are on the flight.  That way, bumped passengers would not need to be compensated because they would not have paid the airline yet.

6 0 Small Aircraft

Most commenters who address the issue argue that aircraft size should be irrelevant to applying the bumping compensation rules, and strongly resist exempting the smallest aircraft.  One commenter points out that airlines are increasingly relying on regional carriers who fly smaller planes in smaller markets.  One commenter points out that it is usually more difficult to rebook in these situations; another expands on this point, drawing on his/her experience that in small airports served by small regional carriers, getting bumped can mean not getting to the traveler’s destination the same day or even the next day — which can cost the traveler lost vacation time, etc. in addition to compensable expenses.

A handful of commenters go further and urge DOT Department of Transportation to prohibit oversales on small-aircraft flights because bumping is likely to be more disruptive to travel plans on routes that use small planes than routes covered by larger aircraft.  One commenter points out that there are less likely to be no-shows on these flights, given the number of business/full fare travelers.  Instead of overselling, airlines should use standby lists to deal with no-shows. Another commenter suggests that if oversales are not banned, at least they should be more limited.

Only one commenter would not apply the normal bumping compensation rules to small flights.  Typically, a smaller connecting flight will be either close to home, or close to the destination, where the traveler may opt for a rental car or taxi instead.  Therefore, this commenter suggests that compensation be based on what the alternative travel options are.

7 0 Banning Overselling on All Flights

About ten commenters urge DOT Department of Transportation to ban airlines from overselling any flights.  In addition to the expense and plan disruption caused by being denied boarding, commenters see this as a fundamental breach of the airline’s commitment to them – something that does not occur in other transportation contexts.  Two commenters disagree.  One would allow the current practice to stand because prohibiting overselling would lead to an increase in airline ticket prices and adversely affect everyone.  The other would not outlaw the overselling, but would reduce the current level of oversales.  To lessen the economic impact of banning oversales, one commenter suggests that airlines sell reduced rate fares the day of the flight to fill empty flights with flexible travelers.  Another questions how no-shows hurt airlines; the airline has already sold the seat and will save fuel costs flying with less weight.  If no-shows are being given refunds, then the airline should sell more nonrefundable tickets.

8 0 Treatment of Zero Fare Tickets

All commenters who address the issue agree that zero-fare ticket holders should be compensated if bumped, although there are different views of the appropriate form.

The majority of commenters say that these passengers should get frequent flyer miles because that is how they paid for the ticket: proposals include double the miles the passenger paid or, recognizing that these travelers may have bumping-related expenses that miles will not address, miles plus cash to cover lodging and food.  Three commenters say that the bumped zero-fare ticket holder should have be given the option of miles or cash compensation:  one proposal for the latter would use two times the prevailing market price at the time of the flight.