US airline Delta is trialling a new method of dealing with compensation for flight overbooking which could mark a permanent change in the way passengers are repaid.

The airline, which merged with Northwest in 2008 to form the world's largest commercial carrier, is using a new system that allows passengers to "bid" on the amount of compensation they would accept for being bumped to another flight.

Airlines routinely sell more tickets than there are seats to compensate for customers who don't show up for their flight, forcing them to either upgrade travelers or make them take a later flight, in the event that everybody booked does arrive.

Normally, carriers will offer a set amount of compensation for a voluntary rebooking, and raise it if there aren't enough takers until enough people have been moved, allowing them to avoid the heavy mandatory compensation costs levied if a passenger who wants to board is denied the right to do so.

However, in the new setup some Delta travelers in the US are asked how much they would accept for being bumped when they check-in online or at an airport kiosk, according to US media reports.

Passengers who choose a low amount are more likely to be selected to receive the compensation and be moved, meaning that those with a higher compensation cost will be allowed on the flight.

Although primarily a money-saving tactic for Delta, the system does have some benefits for travelers, as it speeds up the process in the event that a flight is full and helps to avoid confrontation at the gate.

With airlines still struggling to make money and flights fuller than ever, it seems likely that other carriers could follow suit with the idea, which for once is something that could have a positive impact for flyers - even the Consumer Travel Alliance reportedly described it as "a pecking order created by consumers" and "a great system."