Southwest CEO Says Airline Will Stop Overbooking Flights

Image courtesy of DieselDemon

Overbooking is a common practice in the airline industry, where carriers generally prefer the possibility of paying out vouchers or refunds to bumped passengers over leaving the ground with empty seats that could have been filled. But after a recent United Airlines incident pushed overbooking into the spotlight, airlines are rethinking the practice. United and Delta have raised their maximum payouts to bumped passengers, and this morning Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said his airline will soon stop overbooking.

Calling it a choice that has to be made an “airline-by-airline” basis, Kelly told CNBC that “I’ve made the decision — the company’s made the decision — that we’ll cease to overbook going forward.”

While recent news has no doubt nudged Southwest toward this conclusion, Kelly says that an end to overbooking is something “We’ve been taking steps over the last several years to prepare ourselves for.”

The airline CEO didn’t give a specific timeline for when the practice will end, but told CNBC, “It’s something that we will be discontinuing here very shortly.”

Kelly claimed that Southwest currently overbooks “very, very modestly… In today’s environment, I’ll bet we don’t overbook a flight more than one seat.”

When pressed on the issue, he stopped short of saying that ending this practice means there is no longer a need for Southwest to worry about having to compensate bumped passengers.

“We’re in the customer service business,” says Kelly. “The last thing that we wanna do is deny a customer their flight, so we’re gonna work very hard to eliminate as many pain points to travel as possible.”