American and Southwest are attributing a recent surge in
denied boardings to the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, according to the DOT's
August Air Travel Consumer Report.
During the second quarter, American and American
Eagle-branded flights had 58,065 voluntary denied boardings, up from 25,261 a
year earlier. The American network also had 5,227 involuntary bumpings from
April through June, up from 389 last year.
At Southwest, voluntary denied boardings rose to 12,368 in
the second quarter compared with 6,039 a year earlier. Southwest also bumped
931 passengers involuntarily, up from 376 during the second quarter of 2018.
"American Airlines and Southwest Airlines separately
informed the department that the grounding of the 737 Max aircraft has
negatively impacted their involuntary denied boarding statistics during the
April-June 2019 reporting period," the Air Travel Consumer Reports notes.
When the Max was grounded on March 13, Southwest was
operating 34 Max planes and American was operating 24. Denied boardings occur
when a passenger holding a confirmed reservation is bumped from a flight
because the airline has sold more tickets than there are seats. Denials are
considered voluntary if passengers agree to give up their seats, typically in
exchange for cash compensation or a voucher.
In an email, American spokesman Ross Feinstein said that the
company's biggest operational challenge continues to be out-of-service
"This reduces our ability to start the day right and to
swap aircraft when needed as the day goes on," he said.
In addition to the Max grounding, American's operations have
been dogged this spring and summer by a dispute between management and its
mechanics union as labor contract talks stalled. American has accused the
Transport Union of America of intentionally withholding more aircraft than
usual on a daily basis for unscheduled maintenance. Last week, a federal judge
issued a permanent injunction against the union, ordering it to halt the