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Delta changes policy, will now pay customers up to nearly $10,000 to give up seats

Everett Rosenfeld
Getty Images. Delta has changed its policy about bumping passengers off of flighs, and its customers stand to benefit.

Delta (DAL) has changed its policy about bumping passengers off of flights, and its customers stand to benefit.

The company's customer service agents are now authorized to offer up to $2,000 for voluntary denied boardings. The previous normal limit had been only $800.

In some cases, compensation is now allowed to reach $9,950, though Delta has a number of rules — including authorization from superiors — before agents can go up that high. Until the bulletin took effect on Friday, the maximum payout had been capped at $1,350.

"To reinforce our commitment to our agents and their ability to care for our customers, we will be increasing the maximum allowable compensations limit for voluntary denied boardings (VDBs) systemwide," Delta said in a bulletin to staff.

A voluntary denied boarding is when a customer raises their hand for a payout in exchange for getting bumped off of a flight.

Delta's decision comes after an international furor over a viral video of a man being dragged off of a United flight because he refused to give up his ticketed seat.

In its bulletin, Delta said its best practices included that staff "start at a lower compensation and increase, if necessary."

Last year, Delta had approximately 1,200 involuntary denied boardings — when a passenger is bumped even though they don't want to give up their seat — out of approximately 130 million passengers, according to the airline. That works out to fewer than 4 people bumped per day. That's well below United (UAL), which bumped almost 3,800 last year — more than 10 passengers per day.

—CNBC's Phil LeBeau contributed to this report.



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