Top Class Actions announced that a Southwest Airlines traveler and similarly-situated passengers filed a class-action lawsuit against Southwest Airlines claiming they were double-charged early boarding fees on rescheduled flights that were canceled by the airline company. Thus, the claim agues unjust enrichment.
Lead Plaintiff Thomas Klutho of Missouri said that he booked two round trip tickets from St. Louis to San Diego. The air carrier’s policy offers early boarding for a fee of $25 per person each way. Klutho chose this option for both tickets and for both departure and return flights, so he paid an extra $100 to get favorable positions in the “A” boarding group.
The article said "The carrier reportedly later canceled their flight back from San Diego, forcing Klutho to rebook those Southwest Airlines tickets to get home. But when he did so, he discovered that while Southwest was crediting the airfare he’d already paid toward his new return tickets, it was apparently keeping the extra $50 he had paid for early boarding. He claims that he had to pay an additional $80 to confirm early boarding for both return tickets." Klutho paid not only twice for early board check-in, but also 60% more.
According to the case, when Klutho inquired about the double charges, a Southwest representative told him it was their policy not to refund early boarding fees when a flight was canceled, nor to credit rescheduled flights. The air carrier's website states "All EarlyBird Check-In purchases are nonrefundable. Customers who cancel their flight will forfeit the previously purchased EarlyBird Check-In option for that particular flight. In the event that a flight is cancelled by Southwest, the EarlyBird Check-In purchased for the cancelled flight will be refunded."
Klutho initially filed his lawsuit in the St. Louis County Circuit Court, but the case moved to a federal court as a class action, partially because the cost of an individual lawsuit would be far greater than the value of each claim. The class members are all individuals who paid for Early Bird Check-In for their Southwest Airlines tickets, which were canceled by the airline company, and were forced to pay an additional early boarding fee when they rescheduled their flights. Klutho said, “Because Defendant’s representative stated that Defendant’s policy and procedure were to retain the first payment and require a second payment when a flight is canceled and rebooked, on information and belief, Defendant has been unjust[ly] enriched by many thousands of people for the last five years." The case is expected to draw more individuals into the member class as a result of canceled flights due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At a minimum, Klutho requested that a jury trial vote to refund the early boarding fees paid for rescheduled flights canceled by Southwest. Klutho is also seeking lead plaintiff award, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages totaling five times the actual damages awarded, and “all other relief deemed just and proper.”