Airlines are bumping passengers at the lowest rate in decades after dragging incident


The disturbing image of a bloodied passenger being dragged by security officers off of a commercial plane last April continues to have ramifications for passengers on all airlines in the U.S.

The nation’s biggest airlines reported that in 2017 they had the lowest rate of passengers involuntarily denied boarding since the Transportation Department began keeping records of this statistic in 1995.

The rate of passengers booted from overbooked flights was 0.34 for every 10,000 passengers in 2017, down from 0.62 in 2016, data from the federal agency show. Airlines are allowed to sell more tickets than they have seats on a plane as long as they compensate or rebook those passengers who are denied a seat.


The dramatic decline follows last year’s incident, in which passenger David Dao, a doctor from Kentucky, refused to give up a seat on a full flight operated by a regional carrier for United Airlines. Crew members told him they wanted his seat for another airline employee. Dao was dragged from his seat and suffered a concussion and other injuries in the incident.

The incident, which was caught on cellphone video, created such a backlash that United and several other airlines vowed to improve passenger service and slash the number of passengers removed from overbooked flights. United and others adopted new policies, including a vow to offer passengers up to $10,000 to voluntarily give up their seats.

The efforts seemed to have worked.

United Airlines reported a bumping rate of 0.23 per 10,000 passengers in 2017, down from 0.43 in 2016, according to the Transportation Department. American Airlines reported a rate of 0.38 per 10,000 passengers, down from 0.64 passengers and Delta reported a rate of 0.05 per 10,000 in 2017, down from 0.10 in 2016, the federal agency reported.

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