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Did you book a domestic flight between July 1, 2011 and June 14, 2018?
Was the flight with Southwest, United, American, Delta, Continental, or US Airways?
A class action lawsuit was brought against the domestic air carriers listed above, claiming that “the four largest U.S. carriers along with Continental Airlines and US Airways conspired to increase fares on domestic flights.” The case is being handled by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP and Hausfeld, LLP based out of San Fransisco. You can read the full litigation notices and documentation here (English, Spanish, and French options available).
So you’re telling me I’ll get free money?
Well, not really, no.
Class action settlements occur when a corporation agrees to “settle” a class action lawsuit, typically by paying out a certain amount of money. The total amount paid out is capped by the settlement agreement, and then each claimee gets their share of the money. The amount each person receives is inversely proportional to the number of people involved. Usually, attorney’s fees, expenses, etc. are also taken out of the pool prior to payout.
So theoretically, you’re getting back money that you previously paid to a corporation, when you shouldn’t have had to pay that money. In this case, the class action suit contends that you paid more than you had to, because the airlines conspired to increase your fare. So, the offending corporation should pay back what they owe to consumers.
What’s interesting about this class action settlement?
Well, there’s a few reasons:
- Only American and Southwest have agreed to settle, for $45 million and $15 million respectively. I’m assuming US Airways is included in the American settlement, but I’m unsure. This means that the lawsuit is still ongoing with United, Delta, and Continental. If you like drama, take a look at this section of the letter – “Southwest…and American…have agreed to provide certain cooperation in the ongoing litigation against the Non-Settling Defendants.”
- The time period for claims is so long! July 1st, 2011 to June 14th, 2018 gives us almost a full 7 years of flights to include! If you’re here reading PWaC, I’m going to assume that you fly. At least occasionally.
Neither American Airlines nor Southwest have admitted any wrongdoing (common in class action settlements), and are only paying the settlement to “avoid the burden and expense of litigation.”
(SEE ALSO: Why Aer Lingus is Paying me $1306)
If you’d like to sue American or Southwest on your own, and be excluded from the settlement, you must opt out of the settlement by January 4th, 2019. It looks like we won’t hear much more until March 22nd of next year, when the court holds a hearing to determine approval of the settlement.
I received the below in an email from AwardWallet this morning (note, AwardWallet is not suing the airlines, they simply forwarded me an email sent to one of my frequent flyer account emails):
I don’t anticipate the settlement to be worth much to individual fliers (they rarely are). BUT a little extra money in my pocket, and a little more corporate accountability in the states is always a good thing!
How many flights did you book between July 2011 and June 2018? Let’s keep a tally in the comments!