The rate at which airlines bump passengers on overbooked flights has risen to its highest level in 14 years. Amid sharply reduced capacity, passengers are increasingly reluctant to give up seats voluntarily in exchange for restricted travel vouchers, forcing some airlines to offer more generous compensation. Federally mandated penalties for denied boarding also have increased, though the Transportation Department says that even with the recent rise in bumping, today's rate is still a fraction of what it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Industry-wide, only two passengers are bumped for every 10,000 who fly, according to recent DOT data.

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