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Judith Lillien knew she was likely to get bumped when she looked at the boarding group on her 44-passenger American Airlines flight from New York City to Indianapolis in August: dead last.
The gate agent was calling for volunteers to take a later flight, but Lillien had to be in Indiana to move her parents into a new nursing home.
“There was no way we were taking a later flight,” she said. “The entire point of the trip was to get there for this event.”
But not enough passengers volunteered to give up their seats. Lillien and her husband were forced off for a flight 12 hours later.
They were just two of thousands of American Airlines passengers this year involuntarily denied boarding to flights for which they bought tickets. In fact, American Airlines is bumping passengers from overbooked flights at an industry-leading rate, a problem even worse on its wholly-owned regional carriers.
American involuntarily denied boarding to more than 3,400 passengers in the key three-month travel period from July through September, more than the rest of the U.S. airline industry combined, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.
The risk for passengers to get bumped could be the highest in years as North Texas airports are expecting record crowds for the upcoming Thanksgiving week and possibly its busiest day ever on Dec. 1.
After struggling with the problem last year, Southwest bumped 314 passengers during July through September. United Airlines bumped 15 passengers. Delta didn’t bump any and has involuntarily denied boarding to just six passengers this year.