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Airline bumping rates continue to fall: Delta, Virgin America had lowest rate

After a Kentucky doctor was dragged off a United Airlines plane in April, the nation’s airlines vowed to reduce the number of passengers who are bumped from overbooked flights.

They appear to be making good on the promise.

In the July-to-September quarter, the nation’s 12 biggest airlines reported the lowest rate of passengers denied seats since the U.S. Department of Transportation began keeping track of the data in 1995.

For the three-month period, the airlines involuntarily denied boarding to 2,745 passengers out of more than 177 million fliers, according to the Transportation Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. That’s a rate of 0.15 passengers bumped for every 10,000 fliers.

For the same quarter a year earlier, the bumping rate was 0.69 for every 10,000 fliers. The previous lowest quarterly rate of 0.44 came in the second quarter of 2017.

United ranked fourth with 0.04 bumped passengers for every 10,000 fliers, below Delta and Virgin America — both at 0.01 — and JetBlue at 0.02, according to the Department of Transportation.

Federal regulators allow airlines to oversell their flights because carriers know that a small percentage of travelers won’t show up. Carriers can maximize revenues by selling those empty seats at a premium to last-minute fliers.

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