If you've ever been offered an airline voucher for getting bumped off a flight, AirHelp CEO Henrik Zillmer has this piece of advice for you: Don't take it.
Why? Because passengers are entitled to a far better compensation prize than $50 toward their next trip or in-flight drinks. In the U.S. and European Union, more than 26 million passengers were entitled to compensation after being denied boarding in 2013 due to overbooked, delayed, and canceled flights, according to data compiled by AirHelp for Fast Company. But in the U.S., only 10% of passengers challenge being "bumped" from their flights.
A common practice among airlines in the U.S. is to offer a voucher for displaced travelers, but once passengers accept it, they enter a new agreement with the airline and waive their rights to further compensation. In the U.S., passengers who are delayed by more than an hour can receive 200% of the value of a one-way flight, capped at $650, while those delayed by more than two hours can receive 400% of the value, with a maximum at $1,300.
"People need to know their alternatives," Zillmer said. "They need to know what they're giving up so they don't surrender their reservation for benefits. They're going from $1,300 to $100 [in voucher benefits]. It's a long way from $1,300." This practice allows airlines to continue their existing practices of overbooking flights, bumping passengers, and compensating them with vouchers that are redeemed only 15% of the time, he added.
AirHelp compiled the following list, ranking U.S. airlines by the number of passengers who were bumped, or involuntarily denied boarding, in 2013. Southwest topped the list, followed by United, and Delta.
- Southwest Airlines - 12,221
- United Airlines - 9,015
- Skywest Airlines - 6,768
- Expressjet Airlines - 6,422
- Delta Air Lines - 6,070
- Us Airways - 3,531
- American Airlines - 3,233
- Airtran Airways - 2,302
- Mesa Airlines - 2,197
- American Eagle Airlines - 1,923
As for the U.S. airports that have displaced the most number of passenger due to delayed and canceled flights, JFK International Airport came in first, followed by Newark International Airport, and O'Hare International Airport. Data ranking U.S. airports by the number of passengers affected by delayed and canceled flights in 2013:
- JFK International Airport (NYC) - 648,750
- Newark Liberty International Airport - 476,000
- Chicago O'Hare International Airport - 380,500
- Washington Dulles International Airport - 293,500
- Boston Logan International Airport - 170,750
- Philadelphia International Airport - 165,250
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - 128,250
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston) - 120,250
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport - 114,250
- Miami International Airport - 106,500