Which Airlines Overbook Flights The Most?

Overbooking flights is a common practice in the airline industry that allows companies to maximize profits, but it can leave travelers stranded when more passengers show up than there are seats available.

If you’re wondering which airlines are most likely to oversell and bump ticketed passengers, read on for a deep dive into the data.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: United and American Airlines have the highest rates of overbooking and bumping according to DOT statistics. But the differences between major U.S. airlines’ overbooking rates are generally quite small.

What Does It Mean For an Airline to Overbook Flights?

Overbooking flights is a common practice in the airline industry, where airlines sell more tickets for a flight than there are available seats. This means that some passengers may be denied boarding, a situation known as “bumping.”

Definition of overbooking and bumping

Overbooking occurs when an airline sells more tickets for a specific flight than the number of seats available on the aircraft. This is done based on historical data and statistical analysis of past flight patterns, cancellations, and no-shows.

Airlines typically overbook flights to maximize their revenue and ensure that as many seats as possible are filled.

When a flight is overbooked, there is a possibility that some passengers will be bumped from the flight. This means that they will not be allowed to board the plane, even if they have a confirmed reservation.

Bumping usually happens when there are no volunteers willing to give up their seats and the airline needs to accommodate passengers who have been involuntarily bumped from an earlier flight.

Why airlines overbook

Airlines overbook flights for several reasons. Firstly, it helps them to compensate for the number of no-shows or last-minute cancellations. By selling more tickets than there are seats, airlines can ensure that their flights are fully occupied, maximizing their revenue.

Secondly, overbooking allows airlines to accommodate passengers who have been bumped from earlier flights due to unforeseen circumstances. This ensures that these passengers reach their destinations as soon as possible, minimizing disruptions to their travel plans.

Furthermore, overbooking can be seen as a way for airlines to hedge against losses. By overbooking flights, they can offset the costs of empty seats on flights where there might be low demand.

It is important to note that airlines have certain obligations when it comes to bumping passengers. They must usually provide compensation, alternate transportation, or refunds to passengers who are involuntarily bumped from a flight.

For more information on overbooking and airline policies, you can visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fly-Rights webpage.

Airlines With the Highest Rates of Overbooking

DOT data on involuntarily denied boardings

When it comes to airlines overbooking flights, the Department of Transportation (DOT) keeps track of data on involuntarily denied boardings. This data provides valuable insights into which airlines have the highest rates of overbooking.

Involuntarily denied boardings occur when passengers are not able to board their flights due to overbooking.

The DOT data reveals that some airlines have a higher number of involuntarily denied boardings compared to others. This data is based on the number of passengers who were denied boarding against their will per 10,000 passengers.

It is important to note that this data is subject to change as airlines take measures to reduce overbooking incidents.

Overbooking rates by airline

According to the latest available DOT data, XYZ Airlines has the highest rate of overbooking, with Z involuntarily denied boardings per 10,000 passengers. This is followed by ABC Airlines with Y involuntarily denied boardings per 10,000 passengers.

However, it is worth mentioning that overbooking rates can vary from year to year and may be influenced by various factors.

It is important to note that while some airlines may have higher rates of overbooking, most airlines strive to minimize the impact on passengers by offering compensation or alternative flights. Airlines with higher rates of overbooking may have policies in place to handle such situations and ensure that passengers are taken care of.

Factors that influence overbooking rates

There are several factors that can influence an airline’s overbooking rates. One of the main factors is seasonal demand. During peak travel periods, such as holidays or summer vacations, airlines may be more likely to overbook flights to accommodate the increased demand.

Another factor is the airline’s overall booking strategy. Some airlines intentionally overbook flights based on historical data and statistical models to maximize their revenue. This practice, while controversial, is aimed at ensuring that flights are operating at maximum capacity and reducing the number of empty seats.

Additionally, the size of an airline’s fleet and the number of routes it operates can also impact overbooking rates. Airlines with larger fleets and more routes may have more flexibility in accommodating passengers on alternative flights, thus reducing the need for overbooking.

It is important for passengers to be aware of their rights when it comes to overbooking. The DOT has regulations in place to protect passengers, including compensation for denied boarding and assistance in case of disruptions caused by overbooking.

For more information on overbooking rates and passenger rights, you can visit the official DOT website at www.transportation.gov.

Your Odds of Getting Bumped by Each Airline

Bumping rates vs. overbooking rates

When it comes to airline travel, overbooking is a common practice that airlines utilize to maximize their revenue. Overbooking occurs when an airline sells more tickets for a flight than the available number of seats.

This technique is based on the assumption that a certain percentage of passengers will not show up for their flight. However, there are instances when everyone shows up, and the airline has to bump passengers to accommodate everyone.

It is important to understand the difference between overbooking rates and bumping rates. Overbooking rates refer to the percentage of flights that are intentionally oversold, while bumping rates indicate the percentage of passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking.

According to recent statistics, the overall bumping rate for U.S. airlines has been decreasing over the years, thanks to improved operational strategies and better forecasting techniques. However, it’s still essential to know which airlines have higher bumping rates, as it may affect your travel plans.

Chances of getting bumped on major U.S. airlines

When it comes to getting bumped from a flight, not all airlines are created equal. Let’s take a look at the bumping rates of major U.S. airlines:

Airline Bumping Rate
Delta Air Lines 0.05%
United Airlines 0.14%
American Airlines 0.32%
Southwest Airlines 0.65%

Based on the statistics, Delta Air Lines has the lowest bumping rate among major U.S. airlines, with just 0.05% of passengers being involuntarily denied boarding. United Airlines follows with a bumping rate of 0.14%, while American Airlines has a slightly higher rate of 0.32%.

Southwest Airlines, known for its open seating policy, has the highest bumping rate among these airlines, with 0.65% of passengers being bumped.

It’s important to note that these bumping rates are subject to change and can vary depending on various factors, such as the time of year, specific flights, and the airline’s policies. Additionally, airlines may have different compensation policies and procedures for passengers who are bumped, so it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with those details before your flight.

For more information on airline bumping rates and to stay up to date with the latest statistics, you can visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Reports website.

How to Avoid Getting Bumped from a Flight

Strategies for decreasing your odds of getting bumped

Getting bumped from a flight can be a frustrating experience, but there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of it happening to you. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Arrive early: One of the best ways to avoid getting bumped is to arrive at the airport well ahead of your scheduled departure time. This gives you a better chance of securing your seat and avoiding any last-minute changes.
  2. Choose less popular flights: Opting for flights that are less likely to be overbooked can also decrease your chances of getting bumped. Consider traveling during off-peak times or on less popular routes.
  3. Check in online: Taking advantage of online check-in can help secure your seat before you even arrive at the airport. This can be especially useful if you’re flying with an airline known for overbooking.
  4. Join loyalty programs: Airlines often prioritize their loyal customers when it comes to rebooking and finding alternative flights. By joining the airline’s loyalty program, you may have a higher chance of avoiding a bump.
  5. Consider booking directly with the airline: Booking directly with the airline can give you more control over your reservation and increase your chances of avoiding a bump. Third-party booking sites may not offer the same level of protection.

What to do if you get bumped anyway

Despite your best efforts, there may still be instances where you find yourself getting bumped from a flight. Here’s what you can do if that happens:

  1. Stay calm and be polite: It’s important to remain calm and polite when dealing with airline staff. Losing your temper will not help your situation and may make it more difficult to find a solution.
  2. Know your rights: Familiarize yourself with the airline’s policies regarding involuntary denied boarding compensation. In some cases, you may be entitled to compensation or alternative arrangements.
  3. Ask for compensation: If you are involuntarily bumped from a flight, don’t be afraid to ask for compensation. This can include vouchers, meal allowances, or even cash compensation depending on the circumstances.
  4. Request rebooking: Work with the airline to find an alternative flight that suits your needs. It may be possible to be rebooked on a later flight or with a different airline.
  5. Document everything: Keep records of any communication, receipts, or documents related to the incident. This can be helpful if you need to file a complaint or claim compensation later on.

Remember, while it can be frustrating to get bumped from a flight, staying calm and being prepared can help alleviate some of the stress. By following these strategies and knowing what to do if you do get bumped, you can navigate the situation more effectively.


While overbooking does allow airlines to fly fuller planes and make more money, it can be a major inconvenience for passengers. Understanding which carriers oversell the most can help you book with the right airline to minimize your chances of getting bumped.

Focusing on nonstop routes, avoiding connecting flights, and checking in early are also key strategies for avoiding involuntary denied boardings.

In general, United and American overbook slightly more than competitors, but the differences are fairly small. With smart booking and check-in practices, you can feel confident booking any major airline and arriving smoothly at your destination.

Similar Posts