American Airlines charged passengers improper fees to check luggage, according to a class-action suit filed in 2021. To resolve these allegations, American, the largest carrier in the world, is paying at least $7.5 million to impacted customers.
Plaintiffs in the case include travelers who qualified for the airline's AAdvantage Gold status loyalty program and those with AA-branded credit cards that came with bag-check privileges.
They say their benefits weren't honored, though, because they weren't properly programmed into AA's airport software system -- an issue the airline has had since at least 2013, according to their complaint.
"As a result, AA passengers were improperly charged and forced to pay baggage fees," the complaint alleged.
American Airlines agreed to the settlement in October, and consumers can now submit a claim for compensation on the settlement website.
The airline declined to comment, but in court filings it denied any wrongdoing.
For more class-action suits, find out about Keurig's $10 million K-Cup recycling settlement and see if you qualify for T-Mobile's $350 million data breach payout.
What is American Airlines accused of?
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.
Who is eligible for money from 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 I 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 court. 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.
Refunds will be issued via mailed checks and electronic payments. While American has agreed to a $7.5 million floor, there is no cap on how much the settlement might ultimately pay out.
How do I file a claim?
You can fill out an online claim form or mail in a completed form to:
Clearly v. American Airlines Settlement
c/o A.B. Data, Ltd.
P.O. Box 173053
Milwaukee, WI 53217
Claims must be filed online or postmarked by no later than Feb. 22, 2023.
If you want to comment on, object to or be excluded from the settlement, the deadline is Jan. 18, 2023.
When will I get my refund?
A final fairness hearing on the case will be held on May 8, 2023. Payments for valid claims will come after that, but they may be delayed by appeals.
"We do not know how long that will take," attorneys for the plaintiffs said in a statement on the settlement site. "Please be patient."