Southwest Airlines: We won’t overbook anymore

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(CNN)– Southwest really doesn’t want a United situation on its hands.

CEO Gary Kelly announced Thursday that Southwest (LUV) will no longer overbook its flights, ending a practice that sometimes leaves paying passengers without a seat.

“The last thing that we want to do is deny a customer their flight,” Kelly said on CNBC.

Earlier this month, a United passenger was dragged up the aisle and off a plane by authorities in Chicago when he refused to give up his seat. United needed seats for a crew on its way to work another flight. The airline’s botched response turned the episode into a PR nightmare.

Weeks later, United (UAL) is still working to clean up the mess. The airline said Thursday it will offer up to $10,000 to passengers who voluntarily give up their seat when too many people show up for a flight. Delta (DAL) has instituted a similar policy.

Southwest is taking it one step further and ending overbooking outright. The carrier joins JetBlue, which has long advertised that it doesn’t overbook flights.

It’s standard practice for airlines to sell more tickets than there are seats in anticipation of no-show fliers.

When a flight is overbooked, federal rules require that airlines first check to see whether anyone will give up his or her seat voluntarily. Airlines control how much they offer to pay, though they usually shell out a travel voucher toward a future flight or a gift card.

If no one volunteers, airlines can boot passengers from flights against their will. Federal rules say those fliers have the right to demand payment instead of perks — but after the United fiasco, it’s clear that airlines want to avoid these circumstances altogether.

It’s impossible for an airline to guarantee it will never have to bump a passenger. Carriers still have to transport other pilots and crew members to work, and an air marshal could also need a seat. But ending overbooking does make it less likely.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s