Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly revealed that the company will soon end the practice of overbooking flights, a practice that has recently gone under fire after United Airlines recently dragged off a passenger from an overbooked flight.
Brandy King, a spokeswoman for Southwest, later confirmed the plan of the airline. She added that the plan could be put into place as early as May 8.
Southwest Will Stop Overbooking Flights
Southwest bumped off about 15,000 passengers from its flights last year, more than any other airline in the United States. Companies overbook flights to ensure that airplanes are at maximum capacity even if a few passengers do not show up.
"I've made the decision, the company has made the decision, that we will cease to overbook going forward," said Kelly, who added that the airline has been taking steps throughout the last few years in preparation for such a move.
Kelly did not release a specific date on when overbooked flights will come to an end in Southwest, but he noted that the practice will be discontinued very shortly. The short wait for the move was later confirmed by King.
"Southwest is changing our policy and will no longer book flights over capacity as part of the selling process," said King. She noted that the airline has significantly improved its forecasting techniques and tools that will no longer require Southwest to overbook flights after it rolls out its new reservations system on May 9.
However, King added that there may still be certain cases when there are more passengers than seats in a flight. There will sometimes be operational challenges that will require Southwest employees to ask for volunteers to give up their seats, such as when a smaller plane is substituted for the original one. This will happen much less frequently though, as overbooking will be taken out as early as the reservation process.
The Scourge Of Overbooked Flights
Southwest has joined JetBlue as airlines that have committed to end the maligned practice. Delta, meanwhile, has increased its maximum offer to passengers who would be willing to give up their seats on an overbooked flight to $10,000.
The moves by Southwest and Delta were made after the spread of the viral video that featured Dr. David Dao. After no passengers voluntarily gave up their seats in the overbooked flight for $1,000, the airline randomly selected customers who would be booted out of the plane.
Dao refused to give up his seat after he was selected, as he said that he needed to get home to treat his patients. He was then dragged off the airplane, leading to facial injuries.
PR Disasters For United Airlines
The brutal treatment against Dao is just one in the string of public relations disasters that United has recently gone through.
On Jan. 22, all United domestic flights were grounded due to technical issues in the airline's flights communication system. Last month, the dress code policy of United was criticized when two girls were turned away from boarding their flight for wearing leggings.
The latest PR disaster for United was the death of Simon, a giant bunny, in the cargo hold of one of its planes. The animal was expected to break the world record for the size of a bunny.