Jillian Michaels Bumped from American Airlines, Cries Sexism

Jillian Michaels has taken to social media to decry American Airlines for sexism over having been bumped from her seat. That wouldn’t be the Occam’s Razor explanation here, of course (just like this man wasn’t denied boarding because he was overweight and this man wasn’t denied boarding because he was a Nobel laureate).

Michaels doesn’t tell us the flight, the circumstances surrounding how she was bumped, or what compensation she received. She just believes men on her flight were treated better than she was.

And she shares American’s response to her request for more compensation saying that they don’t provide the same amount to each passenger.

Her Facebook post, as of this writing, has garnered nearly 2500 comments.

On the whole they tend to be like this one — outraged at the sexism!

And while Ms. Michaels doesn’t provide us with enough information to know for certain one way or another, her explanation is among the least likely reasons she might have been offered less compensation than someone else.

  • The amount of compensation for an involuntary denied boarding depends on the price of your ticket. Her ticket may have been less expensive.

  • Treatment during irregular operations will vary by the status of the passenger. If elite frequent flyers were involuntarily denied boarding, and those elites were men, then those men might have been treated better than she was. Though American AAdvantage has changed its elite qualifying criteria this year, gender isn’t one of the factors.

Involuntary Denied Boarding Compensation is Set in Law

The maximum amount of involuntary denied boarding compensation is set in law at 14 CFR 250.5. The law contains a provision requiring the Department of Transportation to review the maximum compensation amount every two years, and the law also sets the formula that shall be used.

Here’s what you’re entitled to in the event of an involuntary denied boarding, which is when you have a ticket and reservation for a flight but the airline doesn’t give you a seat on the flight. It’s what they’re required to pay after offering compensation to passengers to voluntarily give up a seat, and there are no more takers.

  • Nothing if you are offered transportation to your first connecting city (or final destination in the event of a non-stop) scheduled for within an hour of your original booking.

  • Double your fare up to $650 if you’re rescheduled to arrive within 1-2 hours of original schedule.

  • Four times your fare up to $1350 if you aren’t given transportation scheduled to arrive at either your first connection or final destination within 2 hours of schedule.

How Often This Happens, and How to Protect Yourself

In 2014 only 0.08% of passengers were involuntarily denied boarding.

The folks at the bottom of the totem poll, at risk, are those without advance seat assignments. If a flight is oversold, and so seats are available to assign, those are generally the ones who will need others to volunteer or no show in order for them to get onto a flight.

Of those without seat assignments, fare, elite status, and check-in time will determine priority to get a seat among those without a seat assignment. If it turns out the airline needs to pull someone off the plane, similar criteria are used to determine who will be taken off.

Being an airline’s frequent flyer helps. Being on an expensive ticket helps. But the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to get a seat assignment at the time you buy your tickets.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Women that love bring up sexism have latent anger issues with men.

    Now, if she doesn’t call me and take me out on a date soon I am going to cry racism.

  2. This is so stupid. Compensation for mishaps like this are based on status, cost of ticket etc…not gender.
    If anything she’s using DYKWIA for acting like this.

  3. First of all, JM looks like a horse… perhaps they denied boarding because they thought she was a horse? Is that Horse-ism? OMG – where’s my safe space… People like her are idiots.

  4. Despite the comments above that imply that this is modern “political correctness”, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (i.e. a law over 50 years old, that everyone except the Duck Dynasty guys thinks is a good thing), says that policies that have a disparate impact on a protected class may be illegal.

    A disparately impactful policy is one that, roughly speaking, _unintentionally_ has a harmful impact. Basically, just because a policy is not intentionally sexist, that doesn’t mean it’s not illegal.

    As Gary says, there are lots of other possibilities here, but if it can be proven that men are treated better because they are more likely to be elites, then then there may be a legal case to answer under the Civil Rights Act.

    That said, I’m sure American Airlines’s legal team is a bit more sophisticated than the comments section here, and they will be fine.

  5. Probably not sexism, but you know what is? Photos that cut off a woman’s face to put her boobs in the middle of the photograph. Come on Gary, you’re better than that.

  6. @Larry oh – gosh – I uploaded a full (paid for stock) photo and had no idea that the blog’s template scrunched it in that way!

  7. All of these American Airlines complaints appear to be coming from those former US Airways flyers.

  8. Oh, I see. Didn’t think about the blog template.

    You see pictures like that all the time and I was probably the first to mention it. There is sexism out there, even if not in this particular case involving Ms. Michaels. That said, AA could have diffused the issue by a slightly more forthcoming response about IDB comp in its response to her. AA’s automaton customer e-mail responses are awful lately.

  9. It’s likely that there were more men with expensive tickets and more men with elite status, thereby making it seem to her as if the airline was being sexist when doling out compensation. While the airline likely wasn’t being sexist directly, this was probably due to the institutionalized sexism that has allowed men, in general, to be paid more and travel more and therefore buy more expensive airplane tickets and earn elite status.

  10. @Carly, thank you for pointing out this fact.

    Instituitionalized sexism (over hundreds/thousands of years) has allowed men to benefit in the career field, and it is merely the odds that more elite flyers ARE male due to the fact that more men hold higher positions which require more travel. Thus, more male flyers with elite status.

    I am glad Jillian is pointiing out the discrepancy in resultant compensation. . However, her issue should not be with AA, but with the institutioanlized sexism in the workplace. I have no idea where she can begin with THAT.

  11. Funny a celeb complaining about unequal treatment. As if she never gets to “bump the line” when someone recognizes her.

  12. Please also include the caveat that denied boarding is regulated in certain countries by different laws. The law you cite here applies to US routes only. Regulation EC 261/2004 regulates it for all EU-based carriers, regardless of where they operate, and for all non-EU carriers, when they operate from EU airports. In those cases ticket price does not matter. There are also different laws ex-Canada, Brazil, Turkey, Phillippines, to/from Israel, and I believe Nigeria and India also have or had laws in the works. In the absence of a regulatory law, the airline’s own policy applies.

  13. I have no idea who Jillian Michaels is, but based on her Facebook photo I’m guessing she doesn’t spend her days tirelessly advocating for women’s rights.

  14. “If anything she’s using DYKWIA for acting like this.”
    So who is she – and yes, I have Googled her – but so what?
    A quadruple ZZZZZZZ non-celeb, who does not deserve to be taken notice of.
    She needs to get a life and understand she is not important; though this may be difficult for someone who lives their life through the shallow world of television and social media. Good response by AA.

  15. @Gary, what usually happens if you don’t have status and are flying on an award ticket? What can you usually expect then.

  16. What a crap response from American Airlines, which boils down to “we compensated you this way because we felt like it”.

    American deserves all the bad press it’s getting for this. 99.9% of people are not experts like this blogger is, and deserve better than this.

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