The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) assessed a civil penalty against Delta Air Lines for violating federal rules regarding passengers denied boarding (“bumped”) on oversold flights.
“Airlines often oversell flights in order to ensure that they fill all their seats, and the bumping rules are designed to protect consumers when this happens,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We take these rules seriously and will take enforcement action when necessary.”
Delta was ordered to cease and desist from further violations and assessed a civil penalty of $375,000. Up to $200,000 of the penalty may be used by the carrier to implement systems not required by the rules that will benefit consumers.
When a flight is oversold, DOT regulations require airlines to seek volunteers willing to give up their seats for compensation. If not enough volunteers can be found and the carrier must bump passengers involuntarily, the carrier is required to give bumped passengers a written statement describing their rights and explaining how it decides who will be bumped from an oversold flight. In most cases, passengers bumped involuntarily also are entitled to cash compensation of up to $800.
The Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, as part of an on-site investigation at the carrier’s headquarters, reviewed records of Delta’s passenger complaint records from January to July 2008. The office also reviewed similar consumer complaints against Delta received by DOT last year. Both revealed a number of instances in which the carrier bumped passengers but did not follow one or more of the provisions of the oversales rules.