Update – April 24, 2020 – Delta Hit with Additional Case Seeking Cancellation Refunds
On April 22, Delta Air Lines, Inc. was hit with another proposed class action lawsuit alleging the company has unlawfully refused to issue refunds after canceling as many as 80 percent of its flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filed in Georgia federal court, the 29-page suit says Delta, facing drastically reduced demand during the coronavirus crisis, has violated its customer contracts by offering only rebookings and credits for future travel, and not refunds, for canceled flights. Further, the complaint claims Delta, in addition to withholding cancellation notices “for weeks” before canceling flights sometimes a day or two before they’re set to depart, has made it impossible for many customers to request refunds, in part by failing to “highlight and provide ample resources” for passengers on its website.
“Delta is placing its concern for its own financial stability ahead of the significant economic impacts its consumers are facing in this unprecedented economic downturn,” the lawsuit alleges.
A proposed class action lawsuit alleges that despite the “faucet” of federal COVID-19 bailout money headed its way, Delta Air Lines, Inc. “refuses to comply with the law” and provide refunds for flights canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The latest among a stable of carriers facing litigation over their apparent refusal to issue refunds, Delta, rather than offer full ticket refunds, has instead claimed that it will only rebook flights and/or provide vouchers for future travel, the lawsuit says. Further, the 39-page case alleges Delta has actively misled passengers when it comes to both their right to obtain refunds and the carrier’s responsibility to issue such.
With airlines set to receive $58 billion from the $2 trillion made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), the plaintiff argues that the defendant’s refusal to issue proper refunds has put consumers under additional economic strain as restrictive vouchers “provide little security in this public crisis, particularly where many individual Americans need money now” to cover living necessities.
“Delta’s actions have financially damaged Plaintiff and the Class Members,” the case alleges.
With the tightening of domestic and international travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta began slashing its flight capacity by double digits as millions were urged to stay home in early March 2020, the complaint says. Whereas Delta facilitated thousands of flights per day to nearly 1,000 destinations worldwide before the pandemic, the ban on travel forced the company by March 10 to reduce its domestic and international capacity by 20 to 25 percent and 10 to 15 percent, respectively, according to the case. By March 18, the lawsuit says, Delta had cut 70 percent of its flights and grounded more than 600 aircraft.
Amidst the flight cutbacks and despite consumers’ right to obtain a refund for unused transportation, Delta has misleadingly taken “a variety of steps to make it difficult, if not impossible” for travelers to receive money back for flights canceled by the pandemic or learn about their options, the lawsuit claims. The case alleges that among Delta’s refund roadblocks, the company has made it harder for customers to access the refund request form on its website in addition to rolling out a number of policy changes seemingly aimed at blocking refunds. From the complaint:
“On March 4, 2020, Delta announced it will allow travelers with tickets for international flights, but not domestic flights, to change or cancel without paying the usual ticket change fee, plus the difference in travel fare. Those who opt to cancel will receive a travel credit, not their money back.
On March 9, 2020 Delta expanded the fee waiver to all of the airlines’ destinations for passengers with tickets purchased before early March 2020 for travel through April 30, 2020. However, passengers that chose to cancel will receive a travel credit, not their money back.
On March 24, 2020, Delta announced it would allow travelers with tickets for travel through May 31, 2020 to change or cancel without paying the usual ticket change fee, plus the difference in travel fare. Those who opt to cancel will receive a travel credit, not their money back.
On April 3, 2020, Delta again updated its policy to allow travelers to change their flights for up to two years without paying a change fee. Those who opt to cancel will receive a travel credit, not their money back.”
In all, the lawsuit alleges Delta’s efforts to refuse and deny refunds “contradicts established transportation requirements” put in place for the benefit of airline customers. Moreover, the suit argues Delta’s alleged refund-blocking maneuvers run in contrivance to a recent warning from the federal Department of Transportation reminding carriers that “passengers should be refunded promptly when their scheduled flights are cancelled or significantly delayed.”
The suit looks to cover all U.S. consumers who bought tickets for travel on Delta Air Lines on flights scheduled to operate to, from or within the United States from March 1, 2020 to the present and who sought a refund and were refused, or intend to seek a refund in the future.
Catch up with ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation here and over at our Newswire.