From New York comes a proposed class action lawsuit against American Airlines, Inc. in which two former flight attendants allege the company unlawfully reneged on a promise to provide them with free travel pass privileges for life in exchange for leaving their jobs in the mid-90s. The plaintiffs claim that while American Airlines initially complied with the agreement, the company subsequently stopped offering the plaintiffs the higher-tier travel pass privileges as promised and instead improperly provided the individuals an “inferior category” of travel perks.
The plaintiffs’ allegations stem back to November 1995, when American Airlines reportedly offered its Special Voluntary Early Out Program as an incentive for eligible flight attendants to end their employment in exchange for “specified cash payments, a pension enhancement, retiree medical benefits, life insurance and travel privileges.” According to the case, the plaintiffs and members of the proposed class accepted the defendant’s offer by signing a document titled “Special Voluntary Early Out Program Election Form—Flight Attendants.” While travel passes aren’t necessary a “free ride” on American Airlines flights, the case explains, they come pretty close to it:
“A travel pass entitles the holder to free travel if an unsold seat is available. There are several categories of travel passes, each of which entitles the holder to board in a specified order of priority. For example, ‘D-1’ passes have priority over ‘D-2’ passes.”
Proposed class members held up their end of the deal, the plaintiffs argue, with particular regard to the caveat that those who left their employment with American Airlines before age 50 would be “eligible for unlimited D2 travel which will be issued during your lifetime only.” For contrast, active American Airlines employees received a limited number of D-1 passes and an unlimited number of D-2 passes per year, the lawsuit goes on.
In September 2014, American Airlines allegedly downgraded the travel passes of the plaintiffs and proposed class members to a newly created category—D-2R—docking their priority to below that of active employees and their dependents. The plaintiffs argue that this change constitutes a breach of contract by American Airlines that effectively made it more difficult for proposed class members to use their travel passes on desirable flights “because the number of D-1 and D-2 pass holders seeking to board these flights frequently exceeded the number of unsold seats.”