Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian says overbooking flights is a "valid industry process" that allows it to generate higher financial returns than other carriers, amid a furore over a United Airlines passenger who was forcibly removed from a flight.
"Overbooking is a valid business process," Bastian says during the Atlanta-based carrier's first quarter earnings call today. "It’s not a question of whether you overbook, it’s how you manage [an] overbooking situation."
The question followed controversy regarding airlines' overbooking practices in the wake of the United incident on 9 April.
Delta, which overbooks its flights, generates significantly better financial returns than its competitors who publicly say they do not overbook, says Bastian.
JetBlue Airways is one of the few major US carriers that tout a no-overbooking policy.
Delta denied boarding to about 1,200 passengers in 2016, says Bastian. This equals roughly one in 100,000 passengers.
The controversy following the United incident has brought into question the incentives airlines use to get passengers to give up their seats. Delta, which cancelled roughly 4,000 flights following a severe storm at its main base in Atlanta last week, reportedly used significant financial incentives to free seats and move passengers to other flights during its operational recovery.
The storm and ensuing cancellations are forecast to cost Delta roughly $125 million in revenue in the second quarter.