The low-cost airline Spirit Airlines has settled a class action lawsuit for $8.25 million over claims that it misled customers by charging excessive costs for checked bags.
It is alleged in the 2017 lawsuit (pdf) filed by plaintiff Thomas Cox that Spirit “misled the Plaintiff and numerous other consumers, and continues to mislead consumers, into believing that they are purchasing low airfare when, in fact, Spirit makes up whatever discount it purports to give consumers in fraudulent and unwarranted charge.”
Carry-on baggage may often cost four times as much as checked baggage. Spirit’s misleading practices attempt to fool and trap its customers for financial gain.
Customers may save money on luggage fees by paying for them in advance of their trip online. Baggage costs “increase incrementally,” sometimes reaching $100, after the consumer reaches the airport. The Hill estimates that pre-checked bags will cost you roughly $40.
According to the complaint, a $100 cost for checked bags was characterized as a “penalty” by former Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza. However, it was noted that clients were not informed in advance that they would be required to pay the penalty.
The nine plaintiffs who reached this proposed settlement (pdf) on Wednesday submitted it to a federal court in Brooklyn on behalf of first-time Spirit Airlines passengers who purchased tickets between August 31, 2011, and May 3, 2017, from any of the following six online travel agencies: Expedia, Travelocity, Kiwi, CheapOair, CheapTickets, and BookIt.
As part of the settlement, class members will get reimbursement for as much as 75% of the checked bag cost they paid. Attorney fees, administrative fees, and any other charges that may arise are already included in the total.
Plaintiffs argue that the proposed class action settlement, which allows for the recovery of up to 75% of damages, is an excellent deal. “In fact, class actions frequently settle for even a small percentage of that amount, and approval as fair and reasonable can be obtained,” the settlement adds.
In the settlement, it is said that it is unknown how many claimants lived in jurisdictions with shorter statutes of limitations than New York’s six (6) year statute of limitations and hence had their claims time-barred.
The plaintiffs estimate the number of potential class members to be ten percent smaller at 720,000. According to Spirit’s calculations, the average carry-on cost paid by prospective class members was $45.83.
Damages would have amounted to almost $33 million if the class size of 720,000 had each received $45.83 in compensation.
However, the amount of Class Members with non-time-barred claims is unclear. Therefore, a trial could not have resulted in an aggregate judgment of damages.
After the trial, a claims procedure will be implemented, and Spirit will only be responsible for paying Class Members to the degree their claims are not statutes of limitation.
As a result, the $8.25 million Spirit agreed to pay in settlement might turn out to be more or lower than the actual trial exposure.
“The proposed Settlement is substantial in light of the best possible recovery,” the settlement said.
Baggage Fees and Luggage Responsibilities for Airline Travel
Domestic and international airlines that sell tickets online are required to “promptly and prominently disclose on the homepage of that website any rise in its cost for carry-on or both first and second checked bags and any adjustments in the first and second checked bag or carry-on allowance for a passenger,” as stated in the regulations.
When providing a rate quote, airlines or their ticket agents must “clearly and prominently” declare that “additional airline charges for baggage may apply and where passengers are able to see these baggage fees.”
Passengers should also be made aware of any fees associated with bringing more than the allowed number of bags on board.
If a traveler’s checked luggage is damaged while in the airline’s possession, the passenger is entitled to a repair or reimbursement from the airline, as stated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT).
The typical time frame for an airline to declare missing baggage is five to fourteen days after arrival.
Nonetheless, “if an airline unfairly declines to investigate a bag lost after it has been misplaced for an unreasonable period of time,” the DOT may take enforcement action against the airline.