PHOTO: Passengers on a flight. (photo via Flickr/Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy)
As the federal government begins to investigate the United Airlines incident where a man was forcibly removed from a plane, airlines have started pushing back against calls to ban overbooked flights.
According to The Associated Press, the current federal laws allow airlines in the United States to sell more tickets than they have seats under the assumption that some passengers will not arrive in time for their flights.
Airlines for America spokesman Vaughn Jennings said that by allowing the airlines to overbook flights, fares can remain lower. A passenger being bumped from a flight only occurs about once for every 16,000 tickets sold, but people being asked to give up their seats happens on more flights than just those which are oversold.
In addition to travelers being bumped on overbooked flights, passengers can be asked to give up their seats when planes are overweight, the airline needs space for employees or an air marshal needs a seat.
“I don't think we need to have additional legislation to try to control how the airlines run their businesses,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement. “The key is managing it before you get to the boarding process.”
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Following the incident on United Airlines Flight 3411, the Transportation Department announced a formal investigation and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has asked the Trump administration to disallow airlines to overbook flights.
Current regulations require airlines to ask for volunteers to leave the plane when it’s overbooked, but United admitted that those conversations should be had in the gate area, not onboard a flight where passengers are less likely to get up and leave.
Last year, United bumped 3,765 passengers, less than the average among airlines in the U.S., but still more than carriers like Hawaiian, Delta and Virgin America.