American Airlines has agreed to pay at least $7.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by five customers who said they had been unfairly charged to check their bags.
The lawsuit claimed the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline had ‘enticed’ customers to fly with them for a number of years by offering to waive checked bag fees for certain frequent flyers with status in the AAdvantage program, as well as some customers who took out co-branded credit cards.
But between 2013 and 2021, the airline ‘systematically’ required these customers to pay to check their bags because, the lawsuit alleged, the airline failed to program its airport check-in computer system to recognize all customers who were eligible for free checked baggage.
Five customers who had been forced to pay for checked bags filed a class action suit in a North Texas district court in February 2021 and after two years of ‘hard-fought’ back-and-forth negotiation, an out-of-court settlement has been reached.
In a motion filed in court on Friday, lawyers acting for American Airlines said the carrier had agreed to provide full refunds for all customers were incorrectly charged to check their bags.
Under the terms of the settlement, there is no upper limit for how much American Airlines will be forced to pay out, but an estimate of around $7.5 million has been suggested by the airline. In addition to refunding the baggage fees, AA will also cover attorney’s fees and administrative costs.
The airline’s lawyers say American Airlines will contact affected customers directly through letters and emails, and the airline has also agreed to publish a press release about the settlement.
Court documents show how American Airlines initially resisted the lawsuit and swamped the plaintiffs’ legal team with more than 50,000 pages of evidence.
In the original complaint, several AA customers say they received emailed confirmations from the airline after booking flights that confirmed they were eligible to check a bag for free. When they got to the airport, however, agents said there was no record on their computer systems and payment was required.
In another case, a check-in agent told one customer that complaints about the fee waiver happened “all the time” but that a fee would still be charged.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.
Vaguely recall this happening to me a few times. Unlike most folks, I log all my flights in Flightmemory and have retained hundreds of ticketing emails so I can determine all my AA flights and likely document most. However, over the years many of us have had our credit cards come and go or had numbers changed because of fraudulent charges. I hope the requirements for submitting a claim are not onerous.