The deepest capacity cuts since World War II have left U.S. airlines with relatively few available seats, and an increase in demand for air travel could push the industry's "bumping" rate to its highest level since 2001. The Transportation Department says denied boardings rose 25% in the first quarter to 220,000, though nearly 90% of those passengers volunteered to give up their seats in return for various inducements. Despite the rising rate, bumping remains "extremely rare," and the Air Transport Association says the practice -- which results from overbooking -- is a necessary part of doing business. "Based on the disappointing recent lack of profitability in the airline industry, airlines cannot allow reserved seats to be unfilled when an aircraft leaves the gate," a spokeswoman notes.

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