The U.S. Airlines Most Likely to Bump You From Your Flight

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Traveling soon? Be prepared to be put on another flight with certain carriers.
Updated Feb. 7, 2024
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Now that travel restrictions are loosening, more people are starting to travel again. But with overbooked flights and strains on flight staff, it’s common for people to get involuntarily bumped from their flight.

Being involuntarily bumped can happen for several reasons, all of which really put a damper on your vacation. We looked at the most common reasons people get bumped, what happens, and who the biggest culprits are when it comes to bumping passengers.

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Reasons for being bumped from your flight

Mak/Adobe Airport cafe

There are some common reasons for bumping passengers off a flight, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation:

  • It’s an overbooked flight
  • A seat is needed for a Federal Air Marshal (these bumps are needed to meet federal safety regulations)
  • There are weight and balance issues
  • You’re downgrading from a higher class seat
  • There’s an aircraft change to a smaller one for safety reasons

Will you be compensated if you’re bumped?

pressmaster/Adobe Airport boarding line

Don’t expect to be automatically compensated if you are bumped. In many cases, such as a voluntary bump, you will be put on a later flight and may receive a voucher that you can use on a future flight. Compensation varies, depending on the length of the delay and the circumstances in which you were bumped.

You could be eligible for compensation if:

  • You have a confirmed reservation
  • You checked in on time
  • You’re at the departure gate on time
  • The airline can’t get you to your destination within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time

You likely won’t be compensated if:

  • You’re bumped because there’s an aircraft change
  • You’re bumped because there are weight and balance issues
  • You’re bumped because you were downgraded from first or business class (but you’ll usually be refunded the difference in your ticket cost)
  • You’re bumped because it’s a charter flight
  • You’re bumped because it’s a small aircraft
  • You’re bumped from a flight departing from a foreign location (note: some airlines may still voluntarily compensate customers, and the European Commission has rules on bumping passengers from flights that may prevent this from happening to you in certain cases)

Airlines most likely to bump you

We wanted to know, out of all the major U.S. air carriers, how many boardings were involuntarily denied and whether or not the bumped individuals received compensation. We looked at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2020 “Passengers Denied Confirmed Space Report” to compile our data. From the data gathered, we were able to determine the top 10 U.S. air carriers with the most amount of involuntary bumps to the least amount.

FinanceBuzz chart of airlines most likely to involuntarily bump you

American Airlines

Lukas Wunderlich/Adobe American airlines

American Airlines flies to more than 50 countries and throughout the U.S. We found that American Airlines had a staggering 2,820 involuntary bumps in 2020. However, the majority of passengers were compensated, with only four not getting anything. The average compensation per person was $433.61.

Southwest Airlines

Markus Mainka/Adobe Southwest airlines

Southwest flies to many U.S. destinations, as well as Mexico and the Caribbean. While it has the second-highest number in our study with 398 involuntary bumps, it did compensate everyone who was not allowed on the flight. The average compensation per person was $575.62.

Frontier Airlines

K.A/Adobe Frontier airlines

Frontier is an international carrier with flights going to the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Canadaian destinations. The airlines had 256 involuntary bumps in 2020 with only 38.67% compensated. The average compensation was $550.28.

Spirit Airlines

Markus Mainka/Adobe Spirit airlines

Spirit Airlines has flights that go throughout the U.S. and to various Central, South American, and Caribbean destinations. The carrier has 165 involuntary bumps in 2020 with only 42 getting compensation for their troubles. The average compensation per person was $555.48.

Alaska Airlines

pvl/Adobe Alaska airlines

Alaska Airlines is an international carrier with flights going to more than 115 destinations around the world, including Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica. This is our first carrier with more than 100 people bumped; it had 125 involuntary bumps in 2020 with 108 receiving compensation. The average compensation was $823.69.

United Airlines

Wirestock/Adobe United airlines

United Airlines has been taking passengers around the world since 1926. It had 24 passengers involuntarily bumped in 2020. Of those bumped, 66.67% were given compensation for the inconvenience. The average compensation was $908.50 per passenger.

Delta Airlines

VanderWolf Images/Adobe Delta airlines

Delta has flight hubs around the U.S. and the world, including Amsterdam, Atlanta, London-Heathrow, Seoul, and Tokyo. In 2020, Delta had five involuntary bumps with one person getting $392 in compensation for the delay.

JetBlue Airways

Roman Tiraspolsky/Adobe jetBlue airlines

JetBlue flies throughout the U.S., Latin America, the Caribbean, and London. There were two involuntary bumps in 2020. JetBlue did not compensate either of the passengers when this happened.

Hawaiian Airlines

vladim_ka/Adobe Hawaiian airlines

Hawaiian Airlines flies through North America and to Asia and South Pacific destinations. It had only one involuntary bump in 2020, with that person being compensated. The lone passenger received $920 in compensation for the inconvenience.

Allegiant Airlines

Markus Mainka/Adobe Allegiant airlines

Allegiant Airlines receives the best score and the winning title of "least likely to involuntarily bump you" with no passengers being involuntarily bumped in 2020. Passengers can confidently book flights to any one of the more than 100 locations that Allegiant flies to. This airline doesn’t seem to overbook travelers.

Which airlines compensate involuntarily bumped passengers the most often?

Both Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines compensated 100% of their bumped passengers. However, Hawaiian Airlines only had one bumped passenger, whereas Southwest had 398. While Southwest seems to have a high propensity to bump, it does appear to take care of its passengers in the process. 

FinanceBuzz percentage of passengers comped for being involuntarily bumped

Which airlines pay the most for involuntary bumps?

The average compensation per person will be heavily contingent on the cost of the fare being bumped. Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t have a lot of short-hop flights like Delta might. Hawaiian had the highest compensation average at $920, while Delta had the lowest at $392 on average.

Average compensation from airlines who bump you off your flight chart

Bottom line

aanbetta/Adobe suitcases with airplane in background

Being bumped is never fun, but passengers can be assured that most carriers take care of those whot they bump — with the exception of Delta and Spirit, who are both far below 50% compensation. There may not be much you can do about an involuntary bump, but you can at least choose to book on airlines where bumping isn’t the norm.

Methodology: Data was compiled from all four quarters of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2020 Passengers Denied Confirmed Space Report.

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Kimberlee Leonard Kimberlee Leonard has taken her professional experience as an insurance agency owner and financial advisor and translated that into a finance writing career that helps business owners and professionals succeed. Her work has appeared on Business.com, Business News Daily, FitSmallBusiness.com, CentsibleMoney.com, and Kin Insurance.

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