Get Gephardt investigates: Tens-of-thousands forcibly bumped off flights annually

Get Gephardt investigates: Tens-of-thousands forcibly bumped off flights anually (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) United Airlines is getting a lot of criticism for the way they went about it over the weekend, but when it comes to involuntarily removing passengers from flights, a Get Gephardt investigation into federal statistics found United is far-from-being the worst offender.

Last year, United bumped a mere 3,765 of passengers involuntarily. That’s a lot of people, sure, but not even half as many as American Airlines, which told 8,312 passengers they had to give up their seats. ‘The worst’ honors go to Southwest, which involuntarily bumped 14,979 of its travelers - more than American and United combined.

Those are just the "involuntary" bumps, people who refused to give up their seats when offered money, like the now infamous United traveler. If you look add up the people who did take an offer from the airline to give up their seat, the numbers skyrocket.

In all, 434,425 souls were voluntarily bumped last year when you combine all airlines. Delta tops the list with 129,825, followed by Southwest at 88,628 and United Airlines was third nationally, voluntarily re-booking 62,895 people.

Some have questioned why airlines are allowed to double-sell seats. Make no mistake: they are. It's all spelled out in the fine print that you likely never see or never read when you book your travel.

Certain travelers are safer than others. Combing through United's contract, for example, it states that the airline looks at a "passenger's fare class, itinerary, status of frequent flyer program membership, and the time" the passenger checked in when decided who will be kicked off.

Delta and American have very similar guidelines.

Southwest, on the other hand, bumps whoever got on the plane last, or has not yet boarded.

All airlines do say that people with special needs and unaccompanied minors will be the last to be denied boarding.

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