More air travelers being bumped from flights

LOS ANGELES The good news is that more people are traveling, but the bad news is that airlines have cut back their capacity over the last two years because of the recession, and they haven't added it back.

During the first quarter alone, about 220,000 people were bumped from their flights, which is up about 25 percent from last year, according to data from the U.S. Transportation Department. They estimate 2010 will be the worst year for bumping since 2001.

Experts believe the trend may continue throughout the summer as more business travelers get back in the air and more people start their vacations.

Rhonda Holguin with Montrose Travel says airlines always overbook to avoid empty seats and lost revenue. But this year, airlines haven't restored travel cuts from the recession. The result is fuller flights and more bumping this summer travel season.

"Prepare yourself for the possibility that there could be a delay - not only being bumped because the flight is overbooked but weather related issues," advised Holguin.

Airlines have not yet said if they plan to add capacity.

The situation can often be beneficial for travelers. Airlines will negotiate with people, ask for volunteers or offer cash in some cases to people willing to be bumped off a flight.

While being bumped off a flight can create havoc for travelers, but involuntarily being denied boarding is extremely rare, one official told Bloomberg.

But now, it could be easier to give up your seat. The federal government is proposing a 63 percent increase in compensation when a traveler gets bumped ranging from $650 if you arrive less than two hours late to $1,300 if you get there any later.

The new compensation proposal will likely take effect later this year and will only apply to passengers who have been involuntarily bumped. Experts say the best way to ensure that you don't get bumped while traveling is to get to the airport well before the flight takes off.

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