In a COVID-19 cancellation class action lawsuit, a Southwest Airlines passenger challenges the company’s choice not to refund tickets subjected to coronavirus changes.
The Southwest Airlines class action lawsuit was filed by Adrian Bombin who says he purchased two tickets for travel from the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) to Havana, Cuba, which involved taking a connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He says that he purchased the tickets through Southwest Airlines’ Mobile App in February.
On March 23, 2020, he reportedly received a notice in his Southwest app notifying him that his “travel itinerary had been interrupted.”
He says that, a couple of days later, he discovered that the final leg of his trip, from Fort Lauderdale to Havana, had been cancelled.
Bombin states that he called customer service and received conformation that the second leg of the trip was indeed cancelled. Subsequently, the airline’s customer service allegedly cancelled his trip from BWI to Fort Lauderdale.
The Southwest Airlines class action lawsuit states that the customer service representative the plaintiff spoke to did not offer to rebook him on a comparable flight. Bombin states that when he requested a refund for his tickets he was denied. Instead, he was allegedly offered a credit voucher for future flights, which Bombin says has an expiration date.
Bombin explains that Southwest’s position as the country’s largest domestic air carrier was negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Allegedly, since news about the coronavirus broke in Wuhan, China on December 2019, travel has been restricted around the world.
This in turn caused the demand for Southwest Airlines flights to go down, says Bombin, both in the leisure and business travel capacities.
According to Bombin, these travel restrictions and the fear around coronavirus dropped demand for Southwest Airlines flights so low that many flights were determined to be below operational capacity and therefore not profitable to fly.
As a result, the airline allegedly cancelled these flights and reviewed flight schedules to drop the number of flights flown by 20 percent between April 14 and June 5, 2020.
After this initial change to travel plans, the airline reportedly continued to cancel flights, cancelling a total of 40 percent of typical daily service in an effort to react to the decreased demand.
Bombin argues that this decision negatively impacted travelers who had already booked flights with Southwest Airlines, preventing them from traveling to their destinations. To make matters worse, says Bombin, the airline is not attempting to appropriately compensate customers for this change.
The Southwest Airlines cancellation class action lawsuit states that the airline has offered customers two options in light of the cancellations.
The first option is to rebook the cancelled flight to a flight that Southwest has not canceled.
Alternatively, customers have a second option to receive travel credits for their cancelled trip, that can be used through June 30, 2021.
Although these options compensate consumers, Bombin argues that these remedies are insufficient. According to Bombin, Southwest Airlines should have provided refunds for canceled flights and knew that it did have an obligation to provide refunds.
Allegedly, Southwest’s own Contract of Carriage requires that customers whose flights are canceled receive refunds, not credits. He argues that Southwest’s own contract says that the airline will either “transport the Passenger at no additional charge on [Southwest’s] next flight on which space is available to Passenger’s intended destination,” or will “refund the unused portion of the Passenger’s fare.” By refusing to provide the refunds, the airline reportedly violated this contract.
Additionally, Bombin argues that Southwest’s refusal to give refunds violates federal regulations. He says that in an attempt to address the COVID-19 cancellations, the Department of Transportation sent a notice to air carriers advising that airlines provide refund tickets for coronavirus-related cancellations.
Bombin argues that this remedies provided by Southwest Airlines are insufficient and cause consumers financial injury.
He says that he and other customers would not have purchased tickets from Southwest Airlines, or would not have paid as much for them, if they had known that they would not be eligible for refunds in light of COVID-19 cancelations.
Have you had trips canceled because of the coronavirus? Get legal help here.
Bombin is represented by James C. Shah of Shepherd Finkelman Miller & Shah LLP; Joshua R. Levine of Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert; Hassan A. Zavareei of Tycko & Zavareei LLP; and Melissa S. Weiner, Joseph C. Bourne of Pearson, and Daniel L. Warshaw of Simon & Warshaw LLP.
The Southwest Airlines Trip Cancelation Refund Class Action Lawsuit is Adrian Bombin v. Southwest Airlines Co., Case No. 5:20-cv-01883, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
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