American, Delta join United Airlines in adjusting policies after passenger’s dragging from flight


After the forcible removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight, the airline is changing its policy on overbooking passengers, and other carriers including Fort Worth-based American Airlines are adjusting their own rules as well.

Chicago-based United’s (NYSE: UAL) commuting staff and crew will now be required to check into their flights 60 minutes before departure, airline spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in a statement.

The airline promised to no longer involve police in bumping passengers and said it will “no longer allow crew members to displace customers already on a plane.”

The new policy would avoid situations in which passengers are removed from a plane once seated, although it does not prevent someone from being bumped from a flight they bought a ticket for but have not boarded.

“This (change) ensures situations like flight 3411 never happen again,” the airline’s statement says. “This is one of our initial steps in a review of our policies in order to deliver the best customer experience.”

The change by United follows an incident last week in which a passenger was dragged off of a plane on his back after refusing to give up his seat. The airline said that it needed the seat for its commuting crew members.

I wrote last week about the high legal and PR costs connected to United’s forcible removal and about whether the airline industry’s push to fill seats to maximize profits has gone too far.

Meanwhile, American Airlines (Nasdaq: AAL) updated its policies to say that no passenger who has boarded will be removed to give the seat to someone else.

Atlanta-based Delta (NYSE: DAL) announced it will increase the amount gate agents can offer passengers on overbooked flights from $800 now to $2,000. In some cases, the payout could be as high as $9,950, but special authorization would be needed and the payment likely wouldn’t be in cash. The new cap applies to passengers who voluntarily give up their seat.

Last year, more than 475,000 passengers were bumped from flights, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Delta bumped 131,063 passengers, the most of any airline, followed by Dallas-based Southwest, which bumped 103,607. United bumped 66,660 passengers and American bumped 62,571.

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