Southwest fined for ‘bumping’
The U.S. Department of Transportation imposed a $200,000 fine Tuesday against Southwest Airlines for “bumping” ticketed passengers from flights without following federal guidelines.
Under federal law, an airline that denies a seat to a passenger holding a ticket because a flight is overbooked must offer the passenger a voucher for another flight or cash compensation, or both, depending on the circumstances.
But an investigation found that on “numerous instances” in 2009 Southwest either failed to pay bumped passengers the appropriate amount or failed to inform them that they were entitled to cash instead of a voucher, the agency said in a statement.
Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said in a statement that the violations occurred in only a small percentage of flights, and that the airline vowed to improve procedures to reduce such problems in the future.
Federal law allows airlines to book more passengers than the number of seats on a flight to take into account for no-shows, though the carriers must offer compensation to any ticket-holding passenger denied boarding.
A Department of Transportation spokesman declined to say how many cases were investigated, but said the airline agreed to pay the assessment to avoid potential litigation.
Southwest Airlines, headquartered in Dallas, is the nation’s second-busiest airline in the number of passengers served annually.
The DOT can waive most of the fine if Southwest Airlines remains in compliance over the next year.