If you’re traveling away to a destination like Vienna or Paris, you’ve probably anticipated the inevitable stresses of packing, airport parking, and navigating airport security. But what if after making it to the gates you were told that you can’t board the plane, because there were not enough seats?
Sadly, this nightmare is a reality for thousands of travelers each year. Airlines have been recognized to oversell tickets to avoid having any empty plane seats in the event of people not turning up.
When an airline oversells tickets and all passengers show up for the flight, passengers may get bumped. Usually, passengers without pre-assigned seats get bumped first, and compensation could be offered in return for passengers who voluntarily give up their seats.
To reveal the biggest airline culprits for overselling tickets and bumping passengers, we looked at the number of denied boardings by each major US airline, from April to June 2022.
The airlines with the most bumped passengers
1. Endeavor Air - 12.86 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
Endeavor Air, owned by Delta Air Lines, has bumped more passengers than any other major US airline. The regional operator bumped 12.86 people for every 10,000 enplaned passengers.
Although Endeavor Air has the most denied boardings per 10,000 passengers, the airline did not bump any passengers without their consent. All of the 4,270 bumped passengers on Endeavor Air flights from April to June 2022 voluntarily gave up their seats in exchange for compensation. Endeavor Air has hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York City.
2. Skywest Airlines - 9.15 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
Skywest Airlines is one of the major US airlines most likely to bump your flight seat, with 9.15 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers from April to June 2022. Skywest Airlines is often contracted by mainline airlines including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. Of the 9,786 passengers that were denied boarding, 135 were denied boarding involuntarily.
3. Republic Airways - 8.61 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
Republic Airways comes in third place as one of the most likely airlines to bump your seat. The airline bumped 8.61 passengers per 10,000 enplaned passengers from April to June 2022. The regional airline with its headquarters in Indianapolis bumped 4,225 passengers voluntarily and 264 involuntarily.
The airlines with the least bumped passengers
1. Hawaiian Airlines - 0.56 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
Hawaiian Airlines is the least likely airline to bump passengers, with just 0.56 passengers per 10,000 being denied boarding between April and June 2022.
The largest operator of flights to and from Hawaii bumped 142 passengers in total, all of which gave up their seats voluntarily, in return for compensation. Hawaiian Airlines provides discretionary compensation for all passengers voluntarily bumped, including alternative flight transportation.
2. Allegiant Air - 1.20 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
Allegiant Air, one of the primary ultra-low-cost airlines in the US, is one of the least likely airlines to bump passengers from their scheduled flights.
Offering both low prices and seat security, the airline bumped 569 passengers voluntarily between April and June 2022. No passengers were involuntarily bumped.
3. JetBlue Airways - 1.79 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
JetBlue Airways is best known for its low flight prices, although it also offers more seat security than most other major US airlines.
JetBlue Airways denied boarding to 1.79 passengers per 10,000 between April and June 2022. Approximately 1,591 cases of denied boarding were voluntary and 60 were involuntary.
The airlines with the highest increase in bumped passengers
1. Hawaiian Airlines - 833% increase in denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
Although Hawaiian Airlines is the airline with the least bumped passengers per 10,000, it is also the airline with the most considerable increase in denied boardings since 2021.
There was an 833% increase in denied boardings on Hawaiian Airlines flights between April to June 2021 compared to the same period in 2022. Only 10 passengers were denied boarding from April to June 2021, compared to 142 in 2022. Hawaiian Airlines did however serve around 826,000 more passengers in 2022 than in 2021.
2. Delta Air Lines - 349% increase in denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
Delta Air Lines had a 349% increase in denied boardings between 2021 and 2022. Around 3,231 passengers were denied aircraft boarding from April to June 2021 compared to 20,769 in 2022.
Despite the increase in denied boardings, there were no passengers involuntarily denied boarding on Delta Air Lines flights.
3. Endeavor Air - 283% increase in denied boardings per 10,000 passengers
Endeavour Air saw a 283% increase in bumped passengers from 2021 to 2022. Endeavour Air bumped 1,181 passengers between April - June 2021, while in 2022 for the same months, the airline bumped 4,270 passengers. All denied boardings by Endeavour Air were voluntary and all passengers were compensated.
Cody Candee, CEO and Founder of Bounce comments on what you can do if you are bumped from your flight:
“You may not think flight bumping would happen often, but as our report demonstrates it is sadly more common than one would perhaps think. Airlines will often strategically overbook plane seats to compensate for losses caused by passengers who may cancel at the last minute, miss check-in or simply not turn up. However, while passengers are typically none the wiser, there are times when such plans fail and airlines are consequently faced with a surplus of passengers, in comparison to available seats. The duty then falls upon the airline to determine who is bumped from their seat.
“Seat bumping announcements typically take place at check-in, or at your flight gate. Primarily, passengers will be asked to voluntarily give up their seats, this is often in return for compensation. Although, you should always check what the offered compensation consists of to avoid disputes. If there are not enough volunteers, the airline must then decide which passengers to bump. Commonly, passengers that are bumped first are those that checked in the latest or did not pre-pay for an assigned seat. If you are seat bumped involuntarily the airline must also compensate you.
“Compensation can include rescheduled flights, upgraded tickets, airline vouchers and full refunds. For rescheduled flights, if your wait time is more than 2 hours, it is the airline's duty to cover the costs of additional expenses, such as accommodation. Expense limits can vary between airlines.
“It is also important to note that most travel insurance packages do not cover seat bumping, whereby it falls upon the airline to help bumped passengers source alternative arrangements”.
We wanted to find out which major US airlines oversell tickets, leading to passengers being denied boarding on their scheduled flights.
We sourced all information from the Air Travel Consumer Report by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
To find the airlines with the most and least bumped passengers we looked at passengers that were denied boarding by each major US airline from April until June 2022.
We calculated the rate of passengers denied boarding per 10,000 enplaned customers served. The number of passengers that were denied boarding includes those who were denied boarding voluntarily, in exchange for compensation, and involuntarily.
To find the airlines with the highest percentage increase in bumped passengers we calculated the percentage increase in denied boardings per 10,000 enplaned passengers between 2021 and 2022, analyzing the figures of April - June.