The U.S. Department of Transportation is fining Delta Air Lines up to $375,000 for improperly handling "bumped" passengers who were denied boarding when flights are oversold.
The DOT said Atlanta-based Delta's actions "constituted unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition," and ordered the carrier to adhere to regulations.
According to the agency, Delta violated rules by failing to seek volunteers before bumping other passengers on oversold flights; failing to properly compensate bumped passengers; failing to tell those offered travel vouchers how much would have otherwise been due to them in cash; and failing to give bumped passengers a written statement explaining the terms of compensation.
The DOT reached a compromise civil penalty with Delta, including $175,000 due within 30 days. The remaining $200,000 may be credited to Delta if the airline takes steps within 18 months to set up a complaint handling and letter generating system or an automated system to notify customers when they check in at kiosks or online if their flight is oversold, and to ask if they want to volunteer their seat for compensation.
The DOT assessed the fine after reviewing passenger complaints about Delta in 2008.
According to a federal filing, Delta said it has been "working consistently over the past year and a half to improve compliance" with rules on bumping passengers.
Being involuntarily bumped from a flight, while rare, can be one of the most frustrating travel hassles. Generally, involuntarily bumped passengers are entitled to up to $800 of compensation.
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