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DOT: Airline 'bumping' at record-low in wake of passenger-dragging incident

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 2/8/2018 Bart Jansen

a large crowd of people: Travelers wait in a TSA security checkpoint line Dec. 27, 2010, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in Seattle. © Ted S. Warren, AP Travelers wait in a TSA security checkpoint line Dec. 27, 2010, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in Seattle. WASHINGTON – After a high-profile incident of a passenger getting dragged off a plane, airlines bumped a record-low rates of passengers last year, according to a Transportation Department report Thursday.

Airlines reported involuntarily denying boarding to 0.34 passengers out of every 10,000, which was the lowest rate since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began keeping track in 1995.

The previous low for the dozen airlines that report their bumping was a 0.62 in 2016, according to the department’s Air Travel Consumer Report.

The lowest rates were at Delta Air Lines with a rate of 0.05 passengers denied boarding, or 689 out of 132 million enplaned, according to the report. Hawaiian Airlines had a 0.09 rate and United Airlines had a 0.23 rate.

United focused attention on the problem in April, when aviation officers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport dragged a 69-year-old passenger off a full flight to Louisville, to make room for crew members that needed the seats.

The passenger, David Dao, lost two teeth and suffered a concussion in the incident. Congress held hearings about airline service. United apologized repeatedly and reached a confidential settlement with Dao.

Airlines began boosting compensation, to coax flexible passengers off overbooked flights, and tinkered with urging passengers to change plans days before full flights.

The carriers with the highest bumping rates were Spirit Airlines with a rate of 0.82 passengers per 10,000, Frontier Airlines with a rate of 0.57 and ExpressJet Airlines with a rate of 0.54.

In other airline service, carriers had 2.46 reports of mishandled bags for every 1,000 passengers last year, which was down from 2.7 in 2016.

Airlines canceled 1.2% of their domestic flights in December, an improvement from 1.6% for the same month a year earlier, but not as good as 0.3% in November.

Delta, which typically prides itself on its completion rate, with 2.9% of flights canceled in December. ExpressJet and SkyWest also had higher rates of cancellations.

But United, JetBlue and Virgin America canceled the lowest rates of flights.

Flights arrived within 15 minutes of their schedules 80.3% of the time in December, which was better than the 75.6% rate for the same month a year earlier, but not as good as the 88.3% rate in November.

The most punctual airlines were United, Delta and Alaska, according to the report. The least punctual were JetBlue, Frontier and ExpressJet, according to the report.

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