United has reduced the maximum value of flight credits offered to passengers who voluntarily give up seats on overbooked flights from $10,000 to $2,500. 

With load factors currently in single digits, United’s policy change won’t have any effect right now. However, in a letter to employees United explained that it is evaluating all aspects of its business to makes sure it is well positioned for recovery when demand returns. 

United authorized agents to offer up to $10,000 in flight credits after the 2017 David Dao incident, when the Kentucky physician was dragged off a United Express flight by Chicago aviation police after he refused to give up his seat for a flight attendant who needed to be stationed in Louisville for a morning route. 

Prior to that, the carrier’s long-standing policy has been to require agents to get a supervisor’s permission before offering more than $500 to a passenger in exchange for voluntarily giving up a seat. 

In the letter to employees, United noted that the Department of Transportation requires airlines to pay no more than $1,350 when it denies boarding to a passenger because a flight is overbooked.

United’s new $2,500 cap is still 85% higher than the DOT requirement. 

“Overall, we’ve seen the number of denied boardings dramatically decrease over the last several years, with a very small number of customers eligible for voluntary denied-boarding compensation,” the company said. 

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