Appeals court allows suit over airline bag fees to move forward

By Eric DuVall  |  Updated May 6, 2017 at 6:38 PM
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May 6 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court overturned a lower court's decision to dismiss a California woman's lawsuit to have US Airways' $15 bag fee refunded after they lost her luggage.

While the $15 fee might seem paltry, the woman's lawyers have sought to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit, which could put American Airlines, which took over US Air, on the hook for returning millions in luggage fees for customers whose bags failed to arrive on time.

Haley Hickcock-Huffman filed suit against US Air to get her $15 back after the bag she checked failed to arrive on her flight from San Louis Obispo, Calif., to Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2013. A district court judge dismissed the suit, saying the airline never promised to refund the fee as part of its written terms of service. Under the federal Airline Deregulation Act, the judge ruled airlines are only held to a "best effort" standard in delivering luggage.

Judge Andrew Kleinfield of the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling the law did not prohibit consumers from seeking legal recourse if the terms of an agreement are violated. In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit said the class-action suit could move forward and sent it back to the district court for further review.

The lower court has yet to certify whether the case can move forward as a class action, or whether the plaintiff alone is entitled to seek legal recourse.

Consumer groups have criticized the airline industry for misleading pricing for flights. While many airlines advertise low fares, they do not state up front the cost for added fees, including the cost of checking luggage, which many airlines have turned into big business.

American Airlines charged upwards of $1 billion in bag fees in 2016.

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