Frontier Airlines involuntarily bumps passengers from flights more often than any other airline: DOT

Did you know airlines sometimes sell more tickets than there are seats on a plane?  It happens more than you might think.

One woman told FOX 35 News Frontier Airlines emailed her the morning of her trip back home, offering her $250 to switch to a different flight. She declined but wound up getting bumped off the flight anyway.

"The fact that I wasted an entire day and got no answers, no resolution – is what bothers me," said Kassie Sobkowski. "It’s baffling.

Sobkowski was in town to officiate her mother’s wedding. She told FOX 35 News that she’d thought it would be a beautiful and memorable weekend. Instead, all she can think about is the trouble she’s had trying to get back home.

"I don’t know where to turn, what to do. I feel like I was robbed," said Sobkowski.

Chi Tarver, a travel consultant and the owner of Extra Vacations says things like that aren’t uncommon. Plus, Sobkowski says she was never given vouchers that she’d been promised by a customer service agent.

"In that moment, travelers are often at the mercy of the counter staff," explained Tarver.

Other travelers told FOX 35 News they’d had the same problem. 

 "Every time I go to somebody here or ask them to send me somewhere where I can get help, they send me to the wrong spot, so I’ve been up and down all day," said Norberto Torres, whose Jet Blue flight was canceled, pushing him to a different flight the next day.

Breast cancer survivor Vivian Cueto found out while on vacation that she’d been laid off from her job. Trying to get back home to Nevada, her flight was delayed twice and then finally canceled. 

"Their website says that if there’s cancellations due to weather, that they would give you food vouchers," said Cueto. "They did not offer us anything." 

She said she waited in a two-and-a-half-hour line trying to get rebooked and wound up being placed on a new flight the next day at 10:00 p.m. She and her husband paid out-of-pocket for a hotel room. But the next day, they had nowhere to go, so they stayed at the airport all day, trying to keep their 2-year-old entertained.


In the meantime, she said Frontier lost her daughter’s car seat and some other items.

"I’m ready to go home," she told FOX 35.

Sobkowski is in the same boat.

"You took my money. I’m expecting to go home," she said.

The Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) tracks oversold flights. In its latest air travel report, it found Frontier involuntarily bumps people over eight times more often than the next-closest airline, and those stats are actually better than last year. If you’re bumped because of a change in the size of the aircraft like Sobkowski was, the DOT said you are not automatically or legally entitled to compensation.

"There’s no resolution, there’s no answers, there’s nobody saying what you need to do," said Sobkowski.

The DOT said airlines decide on their own who gets bumped, but those decisions are based on a few different factors – things like how much you paid for the ticket when you checked in, and whether you're a frequent flier will all come into play in deciding whether you get to keep your seat.

If you find yourself in that situation, there isn’t much you can do. Tarver said he recommends avoiding budget airlines and enlisting the help of a travel agent. She said she also believes travel insurance is just about always worth the extra cash.

"It usually pays up when needed," said Tarver.