Southwest fined $200,000 for overbooking procedures

Southwest fined $200,000 for bumping passengers
Southwest fined $200,000 for bumping passengers

The Department of Transportation is fining Southwest Airlines up to $200,000 and sending a new message to airlines.

That message: Involuntarily bumped passengers have to be offered cash instead of just discounts on future tickets.

The message came through loud and clear yesterday as Southwest settled charges that it failed to properly notify bumped passengers last year they had an option to just take the cash and run.

The government has a clear procedure that has to be followed when passengers can't get on overbooked flights. Airlines can ask for volunteers to delay their plans, but once a passenger with a confirmed ticket is denied boarding, those procedures kick in.

Airlines have to offer the value of a ticket up to $400 for a passenger delayed 1 to 2 hours and double the value of the ticket, up to $800, for passengers delayed longer.