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Comair fined for bumping passengers

/ Source: The Associated Press

A regional air carrier owned by Delta Air Lines has been fined $275,000 for violating regulations on bumping passengers from overbooked flights, the Transportation Department said Monday.

An investigation in response to consumer complaints revealed that Cincinnati-based Comair violated federal regulations by failing to solicit volunteers to leave overbooked flights and by not paying bumped passengers the compensation they were entitled to, the department said.

DOT's Aviation Enforcement Office also found that Comair had filed inaccurate reports with the department on the number of passengers involuntarily denied boarding.

Federal regulations require airlines that overbook a flight to seek volunteers willing to give up their seats for compensation. If there aren't enough volunteers, passengers bumped involuntarily are entitled to up to $800 in cash depending on their ticket and the length of the delay.

In June, the department proposed raising the maximum compensation amount to $1,300 and adjusting that amount to account for inflation.

"Our bumping rules are designed to protect passengers when airlines overbook a flight," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "We expect carriers to comply with these rules and will take enforcement action when they do not."

DOT said it began an investigation of Comair's compliance with overbooking regulations in response to consumer complaints. The investigation involved a review of bumping complaints sent to Comair by consumers, as well as an inspection at the carrier's headquarters of its consumer complaint records and its policies and practices for oversold flights.

Comair operates 400 Delta Connection flights a day to 70 cities throughout the United States, Canada and the Bahamas.

Delta spokeswoman Kristin Baur said the airline and its regional carriers "fully comply" with bumping regulations.

"We've taken steps to improve training and provide tools needed to better ensure that proper procedures are followed in these situations," Baur said in a statement.