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      U.S. Airlines Most Likely to Bump Passengers and Most Likely to Offer Passengers Benefits to Miss Their Flight [Data Study]

      Eric Jones
      Involuntary Plane Bumps Study

      Despite the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, the number of total daily commercial U.S. flights has been slowly increasing since mid April as more and more people adjust to their new way of life and safety protocols improve. With more people traveling again and the holiday season approaching, we wanted to take a look and see which airlines are most likely to “bump” you involuntarily from your flight and which airlines are most likely to offer you benefits in order to voluntarily give up your seat. Here is what we found.

      U.S. Airlines Most Likely To Bump Passengers (Q3 2019 – Q2 2020)
      RankAirlineInvoluntary DB’sEnplaned PassengersBumps per 100k Passengers
      1Envoy Air1,41211,275,56012.523
      2PSA Airlines1,04111,518,2919.038
      3Republic Airways44511,809,2683.768
      4Frontier Airlines62016,872,0293.675
      5American Airlines3,511104,511,6703.359
      6Mesa Airlines22010,345,8952.126
      7Skywest Airlines56630,555,7961.852
      8Spirit Airlines25124,734,2961.015
      9Alaska Airlines23025,447,9080.904
      10Southwest Airlines805118,214,5110.681
      11JetBlue Airways2627,151,8030.096
      12United Airlines2771,850,8370.038
      13Allegiant Air411,943,2530.033
      14ExpressJet Airlines14,255,5880.023
      15Hawaiian Airlines17,865,4930.013
      16Delta Air Lines3107,673,7780.003
      17Endeavor Air010,999,6100
      Data via Transportation.gov for Q3 2019 – Q2 2020

      Involuntary denied boardings occur when passengers who have a confirmed seat on a specific flight cannot be accommodated on that flight and are thus “bumped”. Passengers are usually bumped due to tickets being oversold. Above we calculated the “bumps” per 100,000 passengers for various U.S. airlines.

      Key Takeaways:

      Regional airlines are significantly more likely to bump passengers than mainline airlines. For example, Envoy Air is 3.4x more likely to bump a passenger than the closest mainline airline, Frontier. PSA Airlines is 2.5x more likely to bump a passenger than Frontier.

      Frontier Airlines and American Airlines are more than 3x more likely to bump a passenger than all other mainline airlines. Frontier Airlines bumps 3.675 people per 100,000 passengers while American Airlines will bump 3.359 people per 100,000 passengers. This is significantly higher than the bumps per 100,000 passengers of Spirit Airlines (1.015), Alaska Airlines (0.904), Southwest Airlines (0.681), JetBlue Airways (0.096), United Airlines (0.038), Allegiant Air (0.033), Hawaiian Airlines (0.013) and Delta Airlines (0.003). Frontier is 1,225x more likely to bump a passenger than Delta and American Airlines is 1,120x more likely to bump a passenger than Delta!

      -American Airlines and American Airlines subsidiaries make up 3 of the top 5 airlines most likely to bump a passenger. These airlines include #1 Envoy Air (12.523 bumps per 100,000 passengers), #2 PSA Airlines (9.038 bumps per 100,000 passengers) and #5 American Airlines (3.359 people per 100,000 passengers)

      -Allegiant Air is by far the least likely budget airline to bump a passenger at only 0.033 bumps per 100,000 passengers. This is significantly lower than the bumps per 100,000 passengers of Frontier Airlines (3.675), Spirit Airlines (1.015), Southwest Airlines (0.681) and JetBlue Airways (0.096).

      -Delta Air Lines is the least likely mainline airline to bump a passenger having only bumped 3 out of 107,673,778 passengers between Q3 2019 and Q2 2020. The only airline with fewer bumps than Delta during this period was Endeavor Air which Delta owns.

      Has COVID-19 Changed the Airlines Most Likely to Bump Passengers?

      U.S. Airlines Most Likely To Bump Passengers During COVID (Q2 2020)
      RankAirlineInvoluntary DB’sEnplaned PassengersBumps per 100k Passengers
      1Frontier Airlines45690,1136.521
      2PSA Airlines39852,1814.576
      3Republic Airways21592,1873.546
      4Envoy Air26847,3053.069
      5Mesa Airlines12536,7452.238
      6SkyWest Airlines361,642,8072.191
      7American Airlines855,369,9821.583
      8Southwest Airlines1107,058,8901.558
      9Spirit Airlines2871,8690.229
      10ExpressJet Airlines0115,4810
      11Hawaiian Airlines0176,2780
      12Endeavor Air0404,0770
      13JetBlue Airways0583,8940
      14Alaska Airlines0916,5430
      15Allegiant Air01,296,5420
      16United Airlines01,333,3180
      17Delta Air Lines02,956,6490
      Data via Transportation.gov for Q2 2020

      Based on the Q2 2020 analysis above, the airlines most likely to bump passengers did change a bit during COVID.

      Key Takeaways:

      -Frontier Airlines is twice as likely to bump a passenger when comparing Q2 2020 to the blended aggregate data of Q3 2019 – Q2 2020. Frontier had 6.521 bumps per 100,000 passengers during Q2 2020 versus 3.675 bumps per 100,000 passengers from Q3 2019 – Q2 2020.

      -Delta and Allegiant still are the least likely mainline and budget airlines to bump a passenger. During Q2 2020, both Delta and Allegiant bumped zero passengers.

      -American Airlines Group’s trio of airlines improved their bumps per 100,000 passengers drastically in Q2 2020 versus Q3 2019 – Q2 2020. American Airlines went from 3.359 to 1.583 bumps per 100,000 passengers. Envoy Air went from 12.523 to 3.069 bumps per 100,000 passengers. And, PSA Airlines went from 9.038 to 4.576 bumps per 100,000 passengers.

      U.S. Airlines Most Likely to Offer Passengers Benefits to Miss Their Flight Ranked

      U.S. Airlines Most Likely to Offer Passengers Benefits to Miss Their Flight Ranked (Q3 2019 – Q2 2020)
      RankAirlineVoluntary DB’sEnplaned PassengersVoluntary DB’s per 100k Passengers
      1Endeavor Air17,27510,999,610157.051
      2SkyWest Airlines38,77330,555,796126.892
      3Republic Airways10,09211,809,26885.458
      4ExpressJet Airlines3,0224,255,58871.013
      5Envoy Air7,79811,275,56069.158
      6Delta Air Lines68,833107,673,77863.927
      7PSA Airlines7,22711,518,29162.744
      8Spirit Airlines13,89624,734,29656.181
      9American Airlines48,010104,511,67045.937
      10Mesa Airlines4,34610,345,89542.007
      11Alaska Airlines7,43525,447,90829.217
      12United Airlines17,62871,850,83724.534
      13Frontier Airlines2,36516,872,02914.017
      14Southwest Airlines12,608118,214,51110.665
      15Allegiant Air76911,943,2536.439
      16JetBlue Airways1,70127,151,8036.265
      17Hawaiian Airlines2907,865,4933.687
      Data via Transportation.gov for Q3 2019 – Q2 2020

      A voluntary denied boarding occurs when a passenger chooses not to fly in exchange for some sort of airline benefits. These benefits normally include some variation of travel credits, hotel accommodations and food vouchers. Airlines are keen to entice passengers to voluntarily leave oversold flights with compensation packages. They do this in order to avoid potentially unwanted press and to avoid paying certain involuntarily bumped passengers cash guaranteed by U.S. Law. Above we calculated the voluntary denied boardings per 100,000 passengers for various U.S. Airlines.

      Key Takaways:

      -Regional airlines are significantly more likely to offer benefits to passengers to miss their flight. Six of the top seven airlines most likely to offer benefits for passengers to voluntarily miss their flight are regional airlines, including ExpressJet which ceased operations on September 30.

      -Delta Air Lines is the major airline most likely to offer passengers benefits to miss their flight. Between Q3 2019 and Q2 2020, Delta Air Lines convinced 68,833 passengers to voluntarily give up their seats. This is 63.927 voluntary denied boardings per 100,000 passengers. The success of Delta’s competitive bidding for voluntary denied boardings is one of the reasons it has been able to almost completely eliminate involuntary denied boardings.

      -Spirit Airlines is the budget airline most likely to offer benefits to passengers to miss their flight. Spirit Airlines had 56.181 voluntary denied boardings between Q3 2019 – Q2 2020, which is 4x more than the next budget airliner Frontier.

      Has COVID-19 Changed the Airlines Most Likely to Offer Passengers Benefits to Miss Their Flight?

      U.S. Airlines Most Likely to Offer Passengers Benefits to Miss Their Flight During COVID (Q2 2020)
      RankAirlineVoluntary DB’sEnplaned PassengersVoluntary DB’s per 100k Passengers
      1Endeavor Air277404,07768.551
      2Delta Air Lines1,5462,956,64952.289
      3SkyWest Airlines4641,642,80728.244
      4PSA Airlines226852,18126.520
      5Frontier Airlines170690,11324.634
      6Envoy Air190847,30522.424
      7Mesa Airlines95536,74517.699
      8Hawaiian Airlines30176,27817.019
      9Southwest Airlines1,1087,058,89015.697
      10Republic Airways81592,18713.678
      11American Airlines6475,369,98212.048
      12Spirit Airlines80871,8699.176
      13JetBlue Airways29583,8944.967
      14Alaska Airlines43916,5434.692
      15ExpressJet Airlines5115,4814.330
      16Allegiant Air151,296,5421.157
      17United Airlines81,333,3180.600
      Data via Transportation.gov for Q2 2020

      As with the involuntary denied boardings, the data for voluntary denied boardings has changed somewhat during COVID in Q2 2020 when compared to the blended data of Q3 2019 – Q2 2020.

      Key Takeaways:

      -Delta Air Lines continued to offer benefits so passengers would voluntarily miss their flight at a much higher rate than all other major airlines. The only airline to offer benefits for voluntary denied boardings at a higher rate than Delta was Endeavor Air which Delta owns.

      -During COVID in Q2 2020, Frontier Airlines became the budget airline most likely to offer compensation for a passenger to voluntarily miss their flight. The rate at which Frontier Airlines had voluntary denied boardings increased from 14.017 passengers per 100,000 in Q3 2019 – Q2 2020 to 24.634 during Q2 2020.

      Conclusion

      Flights being oversold will continue to be commonplace during COVID and long after COVID has come and gone.

      The data for Q3 2019 – Q2 2020 suggests if you must make it somewhere on a flight, Delta Air Lines is your best bet to avoid being bumped. Delta Airlines was also deemed the second most trustworthy airline in our Flying & Accommodations COVID-19 Survey which makes it an all around great airline to fly.

      We recommend choosing a major carrier over a regional carrier when possible as regional carrier’s have significantly higher rates of involuntary denied boardings.

      Frontier Airlines is the major airline we recommend avoiding at all costs if you are worried about being bumped. It had the most bumps per 100,000 passengers from Q3 2019 – Q2 2020 and its rate of bumps nearly doubled in Q2 2020 during COVID.

      American Airlines is the major non budget airline we would avoid if you are a passenger worried about being bumped.

      Data Study Methodology

      This U.S. Airlines Most Likely to Bump Passengers and Most Likely to Offer Passengers Benefits to Miss Their Flight Data Study was compiled using publicly available Air Travel Consumer Reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation. These Air Travel Consumer Reports display the number of both voluntary and involuntary denied boardings by quarter of all U.S. airlines with at least 0.5 percent of total domestic scheduled-service passenger revenues.

      We analyzed the data in order to determine which airlines most frequently “bumped” passengers involuntarily and which airlines most frequently offered benefits to passengers to miss their flights voluntarily. All data currently released over the last 12 months (Q3 2019 – Q2 2020) was examined on a per 100,000 passengers basis. Q2 2020’s data was then analyzed and compared to the cumulative data in Q3 2019 – Q2 2020 to see what effect, if any, COVID-19 had on airlines’ denied boardings.

      The data was collected and the results were analyzed by the post author, Eric Jones, who is a Mathematics and Statistics Professor at Rowan College South Jersey.

      Featured Image via Pixabay

      Eric Jones Mediterranean Cruise

      By Eric Jones

      Eric Jones is the co-founder and head of operations of The Vacationer. He uses his background in mathematics as a professor at Rowan College South Jersey to conduct statistical studies and surveys on traveling and vacations. Having traveled to 48 states and over 30 countries, Eric is well-equipped to recommend travel destinations and new adventures to those seeking lifetime experiences.