Involuntary Denied Boardings Plummet After United Changes Policy

Jun 7, 2017

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This morning United released its operational performance for May. While this report is typically a snooze-fest for travelers, two stats jumped out: Involuntary denied boardings have plummeted 79% and United’s passenger count continues to grow.

First, about the drop in involuntary bookings, the president of United (Scott Kirby) notes:

We’re seeing initial progress following our customer-focused policy changes, with involuntary denied boardings down 79 percent year-over-year in May. We will continue to build on this momentum as we head into the busy summer travel season.

United isn’t releasing stats on the number of passengers still being denied boarding for either month. However, we know that United denied 3,765 passengers in all of 2016. A 79% overall drop would mean an average of just two passengers denied boarding per day, down from an average of about 10 a day in 2016.

And, by the “customer-focused policy changes,” he’s referencing the changes United made to its policies in late-April in the wake of the high-profile United 3411 incident. This includes increasing the amount of compensation offered to avoid involuntary denied boarding and committing to never remove passengers who have boarded an aircraft in an overbooking situation.

It seems — despite BumpGate, LeggingsGate, ScorpionGate, SundaeGate, TobaccoGate, RantGate and all of the promises on social media from those that say they’ll never fly United again — United is still getting plenty of passengers to “Fly the Friendly Skies.”

12.6 million passengers took to the skies on United in May — the first full month since the Dr. Dao incident. This compares with 12.1 million in April and 12.2 million in May 2016.

With that said, United’s planes have been a bit emptier. Only 81.6% of seats were filled with passengers in May 2017 vs. 82.5% in May 2016. So, how is United flying more passengers? Growth. United increased its number of seat-miles available by almost 4%, driven more by domestic growth (4.7%) than international growth (2.4%).

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.

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