In case you didn't know this before, the video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight makes it perfectly clear: A carrier can and will remove you from the plane involuntarily.
What most air travelers are used to is a gate announcement that goes something like this: Our flight is overbooked, we need volunteers to take a later flight, and we will compensate you for your trouble.
Most passengers don't have the flexibility to take up such an offer, or perhaps the offer doesn't seem worth the annoyance of getting to your destination later than planned.
And, according to Milecards.com: "Not all airlines treat oversold flights equally, and some are significantly more likely to take up volunteers than others."
Milecards.com looked at 2016 Department of Transportation (DOT) data to rank major airlines "based on how often they pay volunteers to bump off an oversold flight." The site also looked at involuntary bumps. When it comes to involuntary cases, regional feeders do the most bumping, according to the DOT data.
TOP 5 for involuntary bumps (out of every 10,000 passengers)
- Regional feeders (1.2)
- Southwest (1.0)
- JetBlue (0.9)
- American (0.6)
- Frontier (0.6)
"On average across all airlines that report to the DOT, 6.6 out of every 10,000 passengers in 2016 became volunteers who earned compensation for taking another flight, or not flying altogether." MORE from Milecards.com
TOP 5 for voluntary bumps (out of every 10,000 passengers)
- Delta (10)
- United (7.2)
- Southwest (5.9)
- Spirit (5.4)
- American (4.1)