Only 5.2 per 100,000 passengers were involuntary denied boarding by 12 main USA carriers in the first half of 2017, posting the lowest bumping rate in decades, an official report said on Tuesday.
That practice backfired in April when United employees, whose offers of vouchers were ignored, asked Chicago airport officers to help remove four people from a United Express flight to make room for airline employees commuting to their next flight.
That rate was lower than the previous record 0.62 rate during the first half of 2016 and the lowest since the department began keeping track in 1995, according to the report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That passenger bump rate was down 29 percent compared to the same time a year ago.
Amid a series of onboard incidents that became fodder for viral videos, the nation's biggest airlines are bumping fewer passengers than ever.
Airlines have routinely overbooked flights for years in the expectation that some passengers won't show up.
But in the wake of the April incident, United announced changes in its procedure, including offering more money to passengers on overbooked flights to encourage volunteers to give up their seats. "If the Department of Transportation won't hold the airlines to account for these practices, then Congress needs to step in and fix the problem".
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Travelers were least likely to be bumped on JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Air Lines. That was down from 79.1% in May and 78% in June 2016.
The transportation report also looked at things like on-time performance, cancellation and other incidents.
Hawaiian Airlines had the best rating among the 12 largest US airlines, and JetBlue Airways had the worst rate - two of every five flights arrived late.
The carriers canceled 1.1 percent of their scheduled domestic flights this June, up from the 1 percent cancellation rate in June 2016 and the 0.8 percent rate in May. That belonged to discount carrier Spirit Airlines by a wide margin.
Delta had the lowest rate among the big airlines, denying just 9 of every million.
An American Airlines flight from New Orleans to Chicago O'Hare International Airport on June 14 delayed 214 minutes on the tarmac at Chicago O'Hare, said the report. June's incidents involved the death of one animal and injuries to two other animals. From January to June 2017, complaints went up 7.8 percent from the number received during the first six months of 2016. From January to June, the DOT received 9,026 consumer complaints, up nearly 8 percent from the total of 8,375 received during the first six months of 2016.