If you’ve flown American Airlines in the past few years and had to pay to check your bags, you might be due some money. The carrier, the largest in the world, is shelling out at least $7.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit accusing it of charging unfair fees to stow luggage.
Plaintiffs include travelers with AA-branded credit cards that earned them bag-check privileges and passengers who qualified for the airline’s AAdvantage Gold status loyalty program. They claim their benefits haven’t been properly programmed into AA’s airport software system for years.
“As a result, AA passengers were improperly charged and forced to pay baggage fees,” according to the complaint.
American Airlines declined to comment on the case, but in court filings it denied any wrongdoing. The financial agreement still needs to be approved by the court before customers receive any compensation.
What is American Airlines accused of in the class-action lawsuit?
Plaintiffs in Cleary, et al., v. American Airlines allege that the carrier routinely tells certain passengers they can check bags for free, then requires them to pay when they arrive to check in at the airport.
“Knowing that waiving baggage fees would entice fliers, AA offered free checked bags to certain customers — including customers who flew frequently in AA’s loyalty program, AAdvantage; customers who purchased first or business class tickets and customers who held AA’s branded credit cards,” the suit reads. American “systematically breached those contracts by nevertheless requiring those passengers to pay AA to check such bags.”
Some passengers said they requested a refund and were refused.
One class representative, Eric Earll, said he was approved for a Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select credit card, “which he understood would allow him to check a bag at no additional charge on his upcoming flight.”
But when Earll arrived at the airport, “the AA check-in agent told him the computer showed no bag fee waiver, that this happens all the time and that he had to pay the fee in order to check the bag.”
According to the lawsuit, American Airlines generated over $1.4 billion in baggage fees in 2019 alone.
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Who is eligible for part of the American Airlines settlement?
The settlement breaks class members into two groups:
- Travelers with AA-branded credit cards that entitled them to free bag-checking privileges but were charged on a domestic flight.
- Passengers who received email confirmation that one or more of their bags would be free to check but still had to pay.
To qualify for part of the settlement, class members must have traveled on or after Feb. 24, 2017, and their tickets must have been bought no later than April 8, 2020.
How much could customers receive from American Airlines?
While both the class representatives and the airline have agreed to the terms of the settlement, they still need to be approved by the courts. If and when that happens, eligible customers will receive a full refund of all relevant checked-baggage fees.
According to the American Airlines website, the charge for the first checked piece of luggage on a domestic flight is $30. From there, fees increase to $40 for a second bag, $150 for a third bag and $200 for a fourth one.
While American Airlines has agreed to a minimum $7.5 million settlement, there is no cap on how much it might ultimately pay out.
How do I file a claim in the American Airlines baggage fee settlement?
Right now, the settlement website offers details on class members’ rights and options but does not include forms or deadlines for filing a claim.
“Please check back in the coming weeks for detailed information on the proposed settlement,” reads a statement on the site.
In court papers, American Airlines said it would notify potential class members of the settlement by mail and public notice. It will also establish a toll-free phone number and include additional information on the settlement website.
Attorneys with Giskan Solotaroff and Anderson, the firm representing the plaintiffs, did not respond to a request for details.
Read on: What Is a Class Action Lawsuit? How Do You File and Who’s Eligible for Payment?