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Regulators want airlines to cut back on bumped passengers

Traveler at Chicago's O'Hare airport makes a call after checking his flight status.

TEXT OF STORY

Stacey Vanek-Smith: Triple-A says travel was up more than 15 percent this holiday weekend. That's meant lots of full planes and a lot of overbooked planes. But regulators are looking to crack down on airlines' practice of bumping passengers to later flights. Eve Troeh has more.


Eve Troeh: Frequent flier Andrea Valdez has been "bumped" nine times.

Andrea Valdez: I consider myself a bit lucky when that happens.

She gets a voucher for a few hundred bucks and even kudos from the flight staff.

Valdez: Oh my god, we're so thankful.

They should be. If Valdez didn't raise her hand, they'd have to force someone off the plane -- and pay them up to $800 cash by law.

Valdez: I didn't know that.

Most fliers don't. The Department of Transportation wants to make compensation rules more clear, and raise the fee for involuntary bumps to about $1,300.

George Hobica runs airfarewatchdog.com. He says that increase now keeps pace with inflation. And it's also a slap on the wrist.

George Hobica: What the DOT is trying to say to the airlines is let's make it more painful for you to bump, and let's do it less.

Hobica says DOT also aims to get airlines to add more flights. They've been holding out because it's been cheaper to hand out vouchers than fly with empty seats. DOT's proposal is open for public comment until August 6.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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