American Airlines has refused to issue refunds for flights canceled amid COVID-19 travel restrictions, a proposed class action filed in Texas alleges.
According to the 34-page case, American has placed an additional economic burden on many consumers already experiencing financial hardship as much of the country remains under some form of lockdown. Although travelers are entitled to refunds in the event of a flight cancellation—a fact airlines were reminded of by the federal Department of Transportation in early April—American Airlines has instead chosen to offer consumers the chance to either rebook their trips or obtain vouchers for future travel, the suit says.
Further, the lawsuit alleges American has taken “a variety of steps” aimed at making it “difficult, if not impossible” for consumers to receive refunds, seemingly to retain as much money as possible given the carrier’s severe economic losses during the pandemic. For instance, the case says, the refund request form on American’s website is not referenced in the company’s “Coronavirus Travel Updates” page, and can be located only by searching the site specifically for the form. Further still, consumers have been given little information, and told only that American will “process cash and check refunds within 20 days of receiving all your paperwork,” according to the suit.
As the pandemic gained steam in the United States in early March, American announced a number of reductions in international and domestic capacity as the month progressed, the case states. The airline ultimately announced on April 2 that it would suspend more than 60 percent of its international capacity through the summer compared to the same peak period from 2019, the complaint says. According to the lawsuit, America has violated its own conditions of carriage and “established transportation requirements” in refusing to issue refunds.
American Airlines is among the carriers set to receive a piece of $58 billion in bailout money through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the suit adds, charging that “despite the faucet of taxpayer money that will flow its way,” the defendant “refuses to comply with the law or operate in the interests of its customers."
The Arizona resident who filed the case asserts that he and other consumers have been harmed by American’s “unfair and deceptive” refusal to issue refunds to which they’re entitled. According to the complaint, the plaintiff on January 14 booked a trip from Las Vegas to Lima, Peru through an American Airlines agent, OneTravel.com, at a cost of more than $1,000 for two tickets. The plaintiff was scheduled to travel between March 12 and March 30 on several airlines, with the return flight from Miami to Las Vegas booked through American, the case says.
After running down the COVID-19 timeline of lockdowns and travel restrictions domestically and abroad, the lawsuit says the plaintiff bought on February 29 four tickets for a May 30 through August 3 trip from Las Vegas to Lima, again booking the return leg of the trip, a flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, through American. The consumer paid more than $2,000 for the tickets, the case says.
The plaintiff began his first trip to Lima on March 12 as planned but received notification from OneTravel.com on March 27 that Latam Airlines and American had canceled his return flight, the lawsuit reads. Three days later, the suit says, the plaintiff received multiple voicemails from American Airlines notifying him that his return flight was canceled and the next possible flight back to the U.S. was not until May 7.
While the plaintiff was able to return home after booking travel through different airlines, the lawsuit says American refused to refund the consumer both for the return flight canceled by the airline and its portion of his upcoming May 30 trip. Though the consumer has requested a refund, attempting multiple times to contact American Airlines by telephone, he has not been able to recover the portion of his travel costs booked through the defendant, the suit says.
The case alleges the plaintiff was “actually deceived” by American Airlines with regard to his right to receive a refund.
With the proposed class action against American, nearly every major airline has been hit with lawsuits over their alleged failure to issue refunds to which consumers are entitled. Thus far, Delta, United, Southwest, Hawaiian, Spirit and other carriers face litigation.
The lawsuit looks to represent all U.S. consumers who bought tickets for American Airlines flights scheduled to operate to, from or within the United States from March 1, 2020 through the present and who were not issued a refund for a canceled flight.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.