Monday, May 6, 2013

Passengers vs Airlines: 5 Recent Incidents That Have Resulted In Lawsuits!

Southwest Airlines Sued By Overweight Man
This screenshot related to story number five!
Over the past month, I’ve been reading a lot of stories in the media about airlines being sued by their passengers. Some of the stories are pretty understandable, while others left me scratching my head!

I thought it would be interesting to look at five recent examples – feel free to join the conversation and express your opinion on these legal wrangles by leaving a comment on this page.

1) Passenger Sues Virgin America Over Soda Spat

This week, it was reported that 52-year-old Salvatore Bevivino had filed a lawsuit against Virgin America. Why? During a flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco, the business manager pressed the call button and asked a male flight attendant for a soda. He was informed that such an order could only be placed using the touch screen in front of his seat. “He just pointed to me, pointed to the screen and said, ‘Use the console, sir’,” Bevivino told ABC News. “I said, ‘I don’t want to turn this thing on.’ He said, ‘I don’t have time for your attitude’ and left.’”

Soon afterwards, a female flight attendant approached the passenger and also told him to use the seatback ordering system. Once again, he refused, and said that he would complain to Virgin America. A third attendant finally brought him the soft drink.

Thinking that the situation had been resolved, Bevivino was surprised to be greeted by police officers and TSA agents once the plane had landed. It transpires that a flight attendant reported that Bevivino had gone to the bathroom, and “came back out with a smile on his face and began using profanities”.

After passing the restroom, the flight attendant claims that Bevivino left the door open and did not flush the toilet. Around 20 minutes after being questioned by police, Bevivino was released. He’s now asking for $50,000 and an apology; the airline offered $3,000 to settle, but no apology.  He refused, and Virgin then offered $5,000. He again declined, and subsequently filed suit.

2) Qantas Sued By Aboriginal Passengers

According to media reports the end of last month, Qantas is being sued by a group of eight Australian Aboriginal men for being thrown off a flight and told they would not be allowed to travel in a big group. The men believe this was a case of false imprisonment, as they were apparently removed from the flight and locked in a bus. 

A flight attendant claims the group was rowdy and abusive, but the men have responded by stating the airline is lying. This case actually happened nearly three years ago, with a Sydney court hearing now expected in August this year.

3) US Airways Sued By First-Class Passengers

This story was covered by media throughout the world. Two African-American passengers, MacCraig Warren and Miles Warren, filed a discrimination lawsuit against US Airways after being told to change out of their hoodies, jeans and baseball caps before they could board a first-class flight from Denver to Los.

The passengers told TODAY that they were "shocked" and "humiliated" by the request, especially as two other first-class passengers (one white and one Filipino), were wearing hooded sweatshirt and jeans.

However, the airline claims it was following industry-wide policy for non-reveal paying passengers (the passengers were travelling as part of the employee travel programme). "We welcome customers of all ethnicities and backgrounds and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We take these allegations seriously,” US Airways said in a statement.

4) Air Canada Sued By French-Speaking Couple

Sometimes one complaint is not enough. Michel and Lynda Thibodeau filed EIGHT complaints with the official languages commissioner over the English-only services they apparently received from Air Canada during flights between January and May 2009.

The Official Languages Act requires Air Canada to communicate and provide services in both official languages in the National Capital Region and elsewhere in Canada. However, the couple weren’t able to order a 7Up in French, it seems.

The Federal Court this week awarded the couple $12,000 in compensation for the times Air Canada did not serve them in French (and by the way, the couple was seeking $525,000 in damages). The airline was also ordered to issue an apology to the Thibodeaus.

5) Southwest Airlines Sued By Overweight Man

Last month, Matthew Harper was travelling with Southwest Airlines from Midway Airport to Denver. Apparently, after boarding the aircraft, he was booted off because of his weight (340 pounds).

Once outside the plane, a Southwest employee explained the airline’s policy of advising so-called "customers of size" to buy two seats. Harper states the flight wasn't even full and there was an empty seat next to him… although he was eventually let back on.

The passenger has filed a complaint with Southwest and was offered $100, but turned it down and will now talk with an attorney. "34 years old and I've never been humiliated like this in my life," he told the media. "I mean, when I got back on the plane only thing I could do is just put my head down." Southwest says it plans to look into what happened.


  1. The Aboriginal men in your report should have been reported as 8 Australians. About 2 years ago an old man (Aboriginal) was placed in the back of a police vehicle and transported in the heat with no water. He was found dead. He died of heat stress. Aboriginal people in Australia since Invasion have had to put up with horrible things done to them and their families.

    1. The most passive "invasion" in history !

  2. Jacqueline O'DellMay 6, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    Some people can be downright unbelievable -- infantile -- when they are the recipients a professional service. They expect being catered to. A payment for service (medical, career service, legal, transportation, etc.) somehow becomes their carte blanche for entitlement: "I paid. I whine. You jump."

    Apparently these travelers "checked" their common courtesy way before boarding the plane.

  3. None of these are wins for the Claimants if the airline in question would want to pursue. However, might be cheaper to settle out.

  4. Manuel MontenegroMay 7, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    Great stuff!

  5. Will be happy to have this in formation for classroom teaching.

  6. us airways made me fall while pushing me n a wheelchair and the wheelchair fell on top of me the messed up part was as i was layn on the floor screaming n pain the guy who drop me didnt help me up a lady who was n the plane ran down to pick me up the longest 90 second of my life I had broke my foot on vacation now i have a messed up back and neck smh now Thats a lawsuit i spent 8 months n rehab and still have back pain

  7. US Airways overbooked our flight out of Philly back in August, denied my 8 year old son and I boarding on 2 different flights, refused to give us compensation. We were stuck in the Philly airport for over 20+ hours- our mini-vaca was ruined! I have started my court filings to for full compensation of Denied Boarding for my son and I or for full reimbursement of our tickets. US Airways customer representatives are extremely rude and take forever to respond. I have given them over a month to respond back to me concerning us being bumped from several flights.


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