Delta Airlines will pay passengers up to nearly $10,000 to give up their seats on overbooked flights, a new policy adopted just days after a man was dragged off a United Airlines flight for refusing to give up his seat.
The new compensation limit announced Friday by the airline is nearly seven times the previous amount that supervisors were allowed to offer passengers to give up their seats.
Earlier this week, United Airlines suffered a big and costly blow to its public image when one of its passengers was seen on video being forced out of his seat and dragged down the middle of an aisle in front of horrified onlookers.
The passenger, Dr. David Dao, suffered a broken nose, two lost teeth and a concussion in the scuffle, his attorney said.
The incident has also drawn attention to the practice of airlines to overbook flights and then ask customers to give their seats.
In response, Delta issued an internal memo allowing gate agents to offer up to $2,000 in compensation to passengers, more than double the previous maximum of $800. Supervisors at the airline can offer passengers up to $9,950 to give up their seats, a dramatic hike from the previous limit of $1,350.
The memo was obtained by the Associated Press, and a spokesman for Delta Airlines told BuzzFeed News the numbers were accurate. The spokesman would not comment further on the company's policy.
Delta itself has been reeling from a public relations problem of their own last week when it was forced to cancel thousands of flights at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport because of bad weather.
In an earnings call with investors Wednesday, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian noted the company had 1,200 "denied bookings" in 2016, and said that was better than some companies that advertise they won't overbook.
"I think it's very much about giving our front line the tools and the flexibility to empower them at the first point of contact, and that's what we'll continue to do," he said when asked about the practice of overbooking.
Other airlines told BuzzFeed News they are reviewing not only their policies as to how to compensate passengers who are asked to leave their seats, but their practice of overbooking flights as well.
"We are actively taking a look at our denied-boarding policies to ensure that what happened on another carrier earlier this week doesn't happen on an Alaska Airlines flight," Ann Zaninovich, spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines told BuzzFeed News.
The airline declined to say what kind of compensation passengers are offered.
American Airlines updated its policy and will no longer involuntarily remove a passenger who is already on a plane, a spokesman told BuzzFeed News. The airline is also reviewing its compensation for customers to make sure that "we set compensation amounts properly," but did not offer a range.
JetBlue Airways said it has a long-standing policy not to overbook flights, and a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said the company is now, and always, reviewing its policies.
Frontier Airlines said it is working to give "more flexibility into its denied boarding policy" and that amounts offered can vary on a case-by-case basis.
The airline also recently gave its agents the authority to offer a check for cash as an incentive for the seat. A spokesman did not specify how much.
Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Salvador Hernandez at email@example.com.
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