Reports stemming from Delta Air Lines’ recent earnings call suggest that the airline might raise the cut-off point on overbooking flights hoping for an additional revenue source the company hasn’t fully tapped yet.
As an offshoot of the COVID-19 pandemic, many airlines did away with change fees on non-basic economy fares. They hoped that perk would give customers an extra ounce of confidence that if they had to change their travel plans, their wallet wouldn’t be pinged.
However, that was then and this is now and we’re about to enter one of the busiest summer travel seasons in history and the airline industry wants to make some money while the getting’s good.
In its coverage of Delta’s earnings call, Airline Observer said the airline is attempting to sell seats not only earlier but also not hold back on as much last-minute inventory as it has in the past.
Airline Observer’s Brian Sumer said it’s not clear if Delta’s grab will last forever, but quoted Delta Air Lines president Glen Hauenstein as saying the airline wants to "harness the demand set better," and make real-time adjustments to what has become the new normal.
Doin’ the bump
There’s no real way for a traveler to monitor where Delta’s bumping point is, because it’s probably some fancy algorithm none of us will ever see. But the possibilities are real – especially for travelers who purchase the lowest economy fare an airline offers – and travelers need to be prepared if it happens to them.
“That could make them a less reliable way to get to your destination,” ViewFromTheWing’s Gary Leff said. “However, Delta has been better than other airlines generally at offering significant compensation to get passengers to voluntarily give up their seats and avoid involuntarily denying anyone boarding.”
“Meanwhile, both United and American have significantly tightened how much they’re willing to offer passengers to give up their seats when they overbook flights. Of course, airlines don’t overbook nearly as much as they used to,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has clearly written policies about the rights of passengers who are bumped from a flight. Compensation is largely determined by the price of the ticket and length of the delay in reaching the traveler's destination.