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American Fined for Improper Bumping Procedure

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a $90,000 fine against American Airlines for violating mandated bumping policies.

In a statement, the DOT said it “assessed a civil penalty … against American Airlines for failing to disclose that vouchers given to passengers for voluntarily giving up their seat on oversold flights could be redeemed only after paying as much as a $30 ticketing fee.

“An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that American offered passengers travel vouchers worth specific dollar amounts as compensation for voluntary bumping.  When awarding the vouchers, American did not tell passengers they would have to pay a ticketing fee to redeem the vouchers by telephone or at airport ticket counters, or that the vouchers could not be redeemed on the carrier’s Internet site …  The carrier also did not tell passengers that vouchers used for tickets purchased by telephone had to be mailed to the carrier for processing as much as three weeks before the departure date.”

Quite frankly, I’m surprised this sort of violation only earned American a $90,000 fine. This is a massive communication failure that essentially forced passengers to pay a $30 fee, and put them through a major hassle after they voluntarily bailed out the airline for overbooking its flights (though the passengers certainly received compensation for volunteering).

The DOT adds, “American stopped requiring fees for tickets purchased by phone using vouchers about four years ago but continued to require fees for tickets acquired at airport counters until late last year, and even today passengers cannot use bumping vouchers to purchase tickets online.”

Readers, have you ever voluntarily given up your seat on an overbooked flight?

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