Here’s What Happened To The Class Action Refund Lawsuit Against American Airlines

Early in the Covid-19 pandemic some airlines did a generally good job refunding customers when they cancelled flights (American, Delta) and some airlines refused to offer refunds (United, JetBlue), contorting themselves in extreme ways to keep customer cash without offering transportation in return.

The name of the game for some airlines was cash preservation even if that meant stealing customer money. Worse still were some online travel agencies who were insisting that even customers with tickets for travel on airlines willing to give customers’ refunds would have to accept credits. When customers took the credits, the agencies kept their commissions. At the end of the day,

Several lawsuits were filed over airlines’ resistance to providing customers with refunds when either cancelling or substantially changing itineraries, as required by U.S. law. A class action lawsuit against American Airlines has been resolved in a draw. The case is dismissed without prejudice, with each party paying their own legal fees.

  • The class action won the right to sue in state court, because the 1995 Supreme Court case American Airlines v. Wolens determined that plaintiffs could sue for breach of contract in state court, they just couldn’t impose state law claims on airlines (because doing so would be tantamount to state regulation of airlines, which is pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act).

  • Two of the initial class members were excluded, however, because by booking through online travel agency sites they were bound by arbitration requirements in those sites’ terms of service, and American is a third-party beneficiary of that requirement.

  • The remaining lead plaintiff was allowed to proceed.

In my experience American Airlines was one of the few ‘good guys’ with refunds. Sure, they often cancelled flights at the last minute which meant people who weren’t going to travel had to take vouchers rather than get cash back unless they literally played chicken with the airline’s departure time. But where flights were cancelled in advance, they didn’t give customers a hard time getting their money back.

It’s not clear why the plaintiff was willing to walk away from their claim, but this particular attempt at a class action against American Airlines has come to an end (although could still be refiled). The places to focus on are the airlines and online travel agencies which really did act badly against their customers.

(HT: Retired Lawyer)

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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Comments

  1. @ Gary — Air Canda has still given us exactly nothing for our $4,700. No refund, no miles, nothing. Thieves.

  2. Best info I can offer is to contact the issuing credit card company’s fraud department. Explain you purchased a service from the airline but never received the product or service purchased.

    Upon investigation, and supported by legal policies announced in USA and EU I provided, my credit card company sent me news after a month of a full refund from a very belligerent Iberia Airlines.

    The only one to escape (temporarily) full responsibility for walking away responsibility for issuing the ticket was a third party firm. Whatever the discount, I would never use a third party for ticket purchase.

    When they tired of my insistence to support my demands for refund from Iberia, they announced washing their hands of everything. This came but weeks after they informed me how Iberia would only work through their agency; as well as that all communication would be through that agency.

  3. hotels.com has said they will “get back to (me)” since march, i spoke with someone thrice and sent out multiple emails. it was for a prepaid hotel reservation where the hotel approved my cancellation (because of the pandemic), but the people at hotels.com have yet to refund my 60 bucks. no problem- it’s only been nine months….

    i had to go somewhere during november, and used booking.com instead. hotels.com can keep the money. they lost this once loyal customer for good.

  4. I also can get no support from miserable AMEX, under their brain-dead theory that since the purchase was more than six months prior, they are not required to even “investigate” my claim.

    This renders American Express’ “assurance guarantee” essentially worthless unless all your tickets are purchased within six months of your final flight, as they will not consider claims for the performance even if the airline strands you from your flight home

  5. Credit card companies can be your advocate but they don’t have piles of money sitting around to refund card members if a merchant doesn’t refund their money. Sorry but the old “file a claim with your credit card company” is very ignorant advice. Sure if there is a fraudulent charge they have coverage for it but if you willingly enter into a transaction and the merchant disputes the charge back I assure you credit card companies will not give you back your money. I had a friend who got so upset with Capital One when they clawed back a temporary credit due to a claim he filed when Turn Key wouldn’t refund his money for a vacation rental in Key West he decided to never use them again. Still didn’t get his money back!

  6. The airlines don’t even come close to MSC Cruise Lines. There are thousands of passengers who’s cruises were canceled and have not received anything. I am one of them. While our amount was small. Some people have $5-10k bookings that the cruises were canceled. MSC still have not processed refunds or Future Cruise credits. My bank, Chase, could only offer me a $100 credit as the 6 months have past.

    Not refunding passengers’ money seems to be a thing for 2020.

  7. Bought a flight to Ecuador last spring. Tried to cancel a few days later when we found out the flight was impossible as the quarantine duration at the destination city was well past the return flight date. Filed a claim with the credit card company used to purchase the ticket. After a month, they denied the claim on thd airline’s say so. Like asking the Fox if he raided the hen house.

    Took over a year to get a usable credit from Spirit Airlines, and of course the new flight this a June is more expensive.

  8. American Airlines has treated me horrible and will not refund me $707 in tickets. They overcharged me $150 in baggage, and refuse to refund any money on my cancelled flights. I will never fly American again. I want to file a class action lawsuit against them for treating cus so badly. A man I spoke with said they would gladly give his money back because he had so good however when they overcharged me on baggage and I refuse to fly on their Airlines they don’t want to give me about anything. This is wrong.

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