Here Are The Airlines Most Likely To Pay Travelers For Oversold Flights

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Oversold planes are at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now, thanks to United. When there aren’t enough seats on your plane, it can be a huge pain—but it can also be relatively lucrative for you. That is, if you’re flying the right airline. The question then becomes: Which airline is the one most likely to compensate its passengers for an oversold flight?

The answer is Delta Airlines, by a mile.

According to new data released this month from the Department of Transportation (for the full year of 2016), Delta was far and away the most likely to pay volunteers to give up their seat on an oversold flight. The data was compiled by, and the results are interesting:


Delta topped the list, followed not too closely by United Airlines (which, if the company has any sense, will start compensating a heck of a lot more for oversold flights). On Delta flights, 10 out of every 10,000 passengers was compensated for volunteering.

That being said, Delta is very proactive in recruiting people to give up their seats on oversold flights. They sometimes offer gift cards instead of flight vouchers and are open to negotiating. In fact, after Delta systems went down last week causing a massive mess, one woman and her family scored $11,000 for giving up their seats (and, ultimately, their long weekend vacation, but I’d rather have the cash).

At the bottom of the list for compensation are JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines. Are these companies merely stingy? Well, not exactly. It’s that these airlines don’t make a habit of overbooking flights the way many major airline carriers do. And according to the data, it’s rare that Hawaiian Air or JetBlue passengers will have to deal with involuntary bumps.

Overall, you’re most likely to get lucky… sort of… with regional flights. Feeder airlines like SkyWest and ExpressJet are the most likely to bump and compensate you—14.7 out of every 10,000 fliers was compensated for an oversold flight. The only catch is you can’t actually buy a ticket directly from these airlines. You have to go through a major carrier instead, like American or United.

So if your travel plans are flexible, speak up. Tell the gate agents you’re interested, but don’t give up your boarding pass until you’re entirely sure and you’ve gotten the type of compensation you’re looking for. (The airlines follow compensation guidelines based on how many hours after your originally scheduled arrival they can get you there.) Once you do, your seat is gone and that’s the end of it. But if you’re smart, you can score free flights or other perks for a few hours of delay.

About the Author

Jessica Suss

An aspiring food and health writer, native Chicagoan, and nut butter enthusiast. Jessica is also the creator of BiteMeBlog, but don't call her a foodie More.

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