These airlines have the worst records for bumping passengers

Despite United Airlines' high-profile blunder in yanking a passenger from a full flight, the odds of getting bumped from your next flight on a U.S. carrier are very small.

But a lot depends on which airline you choose to fly.

Faced with slim profit margins on each ticket sold, the airline industry routinely sells some seats twice, based on the odds that some passengers won't show up.

Some airlines apparently do a much better job of calculating those odds than others, based on a review of Department of Transportation statistics on what the industry refers to as "denied boardings."

Over the past four years, roughly a half-million flyers a year have been bumped from a flight on a major U.S. carrier — out of a total of about 615 million passengers flown each year. And 9 out of 10 of those who were bumped got off the plane voluntarily, usually in response to a cash incentive or a voucher good for future travel.

That leaves about 50,000 passengers a year who are unwillingly expelled from an airplane. The odds of your being one of them varies widely from one carrier to another.

From 2013 through last year, for example, Virgin America and Hawaiian Airlines involuntarily removed one passenger per 100,000 customers. JetBlue and Delta were close behind, involuntarily bumping three passengers per 100,000.

ExpressJet and Skywest, on the other hand, removed some 20 passengers per 100,000 annually, on average, during the four-year period.

Representatives for Skywest and ExpressJet said that, as regional carriers for larger airlines, they don't have any control over ticketing, reservations or seats.

Overall, the industry has been making progress in reducing the need to deny boarding ticketed passengers, cutting the number of overbooked seats from over a million in the late 1990s to about half that level in past few years. That reduction is due, in part, to advances in data science and the algorithms used to track passenger traffic patterns and analyzing load factors on individual flights.

Despite that progress, though, the number of involuntary denied boards has remained stubbornly constant at around 50,000 per year.