Delta Fined for Violating Bumping Rules (Again)

Delta Airlines
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The Transportation Department fined Delta Air Lines $750,000 on Wednesday for bumping passengers from full flights without asking for volunteers and without detailing compensation available.

Delta had similar violations in July 2009, when the airline was fined $375,000.

"Airline passengers deserve to be treated fairly, especially if they are forced to miss a flight because an airline oversold seats," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in announcing the fine. "Consumers have rights, and we will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate our rules to protect the traveling public."

Federal regulations require airlines to seek volunteers willing to give up their seats when flights are oversold. If passengers still need to be bumped, they are entitled to up to $1,300, depending on the cost of their tickets and length of delay.

The Transportation Department's aviation enforcement office reviewed 310 bumping complaints against Delta from November 2010 to January 2012. The complaints said Delta didn't seek volunteers, didn't provide written notices about cash compensation and counted some bumped passengers as volunteers.

Delta denied any widespread violation and disputed facts in many of the complaints. The airline said that it has invested heavily in complying with the regulation since the 2009 fine.

Delta had the fourth-lowest rate of bumping passengers out of the 15 airlines tracked during 2012, according to Transportation Department statistics. Delta had 121,535 volunteers and 5,342 involuntary bumps out of more than 100 million passengers last year.

Under an agreement to avoid litigation with federal regulators, Delta will pay $325,000 within 30 days and can spend the remaining $425,000 of the penalty on electronic tablets to record bumping decisions and train staffers how to use the equipment. Delta has said it will spend much more than that on the equipment.

Anthony Black, a Delta spokesman, says the electronics will help both staffers and passengers understand more clearly what is being offered and accepted when flights are oversold.

"We are continuing to invest heavily in technology that is designed to improve our procedures in handling oversold flights," Black said. "We are also working with our employees to ensure that they are clearly and correctly communicating the oversold rules that are already in place."