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How does Delta decide who gets bumped?

When airlines like Delta overbook flights, they sometimes have to bump passengers to a later flight. Getting bumped can be inconvenient for travelers, so how does Delta decide who gets bumped? There are a few key factors Delta considers.

Delta’s Priority List for Bumping Passengers

Delta has an established priority list they follow when determining who gets bumped from an overbooked flight:

  1. Passengers who are not already checked in or at the gate when the flight is ready to board.
  2. Passengers without confirmed reservations, including standby travelers.
  3. Volunteers who agree to give up their seats in exchange for compensation from the airline.
  4. Passengers with later connecting flights that won’t be impacted by a bump to a later flight.
  5. Travelers who paid the lowest fare and do not have elite status with the airline.
  6. Passengers with elite status, starting with the lowest tier.
  7. First class passengers without elite status.
  8. A single traveler in a party.
  9. Unaccompanied minors.

As you can see, Delta prioritizes keeping connecting passengers, high-fare customers, and their most loyal elite travelers on the original flight if possible. Volunteers and no-show passengers are always bumped first.

Factors That Impact Getting Bumped

In addition to the priority list, there are a few other factors that can impact your chances of getting bumped from an oversold Delta flight:

  • Fare class – Travelers who purchased basic economy or other discounted fares are more likely to get bumped than someone who paid full-fare.
  • Elite status – Delta elites, especially higher tiers like Diamond and Platinum, are less likely to get bumped than non-elites.
  • Group size – Lone travelers are more likely to get bumped than large groups or families traveling together.
  • Connecting flights – Those with tight connections or international onward travel may get priority to avoid missing other flights.
  • Check-in time – Later check-ins or cutting it close to boarding time increases chances of getting bumped.

Compensation for Voluntary Bumping

When passengers voluntarily give up their seats on oversold flights, Delta provides compensation in the form of travel vouchers, loyalty miles, or payments:

Delay Compensation
Less than 1 hour arrival delay $200 voucher or 10,000 miles
1-2 hour arrival delay $400 voucher or 20,000 miles
Over 2 hours arrival delay $600 voucher or 30,000 miles

Vouchers can be used towards future Delta flights, while miles are deposited into your SkyMiles account. Delta may offer additional compensation like first class upgrades to solicit more volunteers.

Involuntary Denied Boarding Compensation

When passengers are involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight, Delta provides denied boarding compensation under U.S. Department of Transportation requirements:

Arrival Delay Compensation
0-1 hour arrival delay 200% of one-way fare (capped at $675)
1-2 hour arrival delay 400% of one-way fare (capped at $1,350)
Over 2 hours arrival delay 400% of one-way fare (no cap)

Compensation is issued in cash, travel credits, or via check within 30 days. Passengers are also entitled to amenities like hotel accommodation, meals, and alternate transportation.

Improving Your Chances of Avoiding a Bump

While getting bumped from a flight can feel random, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting involuntarily denied boarding:

  • Book early and select preferred seating – This establishes check-in priority over later bookings.
  • Check in online 24 hours before departure – Earlier check-ins get boarding priority.
  • Buy up to a higher fare class – Full-fare economy or first class decreases odds of getting bumped.
  • Get Delta elite status – Even Silver or Gold status reduces chances of getting bumped.
  • Fly at less busy times – Avoid early morning and late afternoon rushes.
  • Connect in a hub city – Flying through Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, etc gives more options if bumped.
  • Book multiple segments under one record – Makes you less likely to get bumped on one flight.

Joining Delta’s SkyMiles program also helps establish check-in priority earlier and gives access to same-day flight changes if needed.

What To Do If You Get Bumped

If you do end up getting bumped from an oversold Delta flight, here are some tips on what to do:

  • Accept compensation – Don’t give up your seat voluntarily without proper compensation from the airline.
  • Ask for a confirmed seat – Demand a confirmed seat on the next available flight, don’t accept standby status.
  • Request amenities – Ask for meal vouchers, airport lounge access, hotel stay, etc. as needed.
  • Get the compensation in writing – Confirm details like new flight time, meal vouchers, and transportation stipend in writing.
  • Know your rights – Familiarize yourself with Delta’s policies and DOT regulations for bumping compensation.
  • File a complaint if needed – If you feel mistreated, file a complaint with Delta and the DOT to be compensated.

While getting bumped from an oversold flight can be inconvenient, being flexible and understanding can help make the process go more smoothly. Delta gate agents and customer service staff are trained to assist bumped passengers and compensate them according to established policies.


Delta has a structured priority list and policies in place for determining which passengers get bumped from oversold flights. Factors like your fare class, elite status, check-in time, and group size impact your chances of involuntary denied boarding. Compensation is provided based on arrival delay time, either as a travel voucher, miles, or cash payment. While getting bumped can be frustrating, knowing Delta’s policies and your rights as a traveler can help make the experience go more smoothly.