Legally, the airlines can turn away paying customers, and they do it thousands of times a year. Airlines often overbook flights to account for the likelihood that passengers won’t show up, and, although this can be extremely annoying, it is also legal and might even contribute to lower prices for tickets, because it increases the likelihood that planes will be filled to capacity. According to its contract of carriage, United can deny boarding on oversold flights if passengers don’t accept compensation.
Of course, the way one man was removed from a Chicago to Louisville flight (video available in one of my earlier blog posts that asked if you’d choose to fly United again).
If you think something significant is going to change, well, better run because I’m about to throw some ice-cold water on you. Here’s another excerpt from The Atlantic’s report:
Domestic airlines are now enjoying record profits, having flown more passengers each year since 2010. This is in part because the airline industry is sheltered from both antitrust regulation and litigation. Four carriers—United, Delta, American, and Southwest—earn more than $20 billion in profits annually and own 80 percent of seats on domestic flights.