Southwest Airlines learned that the hard way last week when a judge approved the settlement for the recent class action lawsuit in which Southwest screwed its Business Select ticket purchasers out of some drinks.
Apparently, the way things were (where’s Barbra Streisand when you need her?) at Southwest, if a passenger purchased tickets through their premium Business Select program, the passenger would receive drink vouchers—valued at $5 each and with no expiration date—that they could then use in-flight.
Well, all fine and dandy until the fateful date of August 1, 2010. That’s when Southwest changed the rules of the game and decided that those drink vouchers could only be used on the day of travel that was printed on the ticket. Hmm…thinking of stockpiling vouchers for that red-eye flight? Not anymore you aren’t (and you may want to hold off on popping the Ambien…)
So someone raised an eyebrow at the switcheroo in policy and that someone was an attorney: Adam Levitt (of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz in Chicago).
Levitt, clearly being an ‘e pluribus unum’ kind of guy, figured he wasn’t the only one affected by the disappearing drinks act and, therefore, from the many affected one class was formed and a Southwest Airlines drink voucher class action lawsuit was filed (November 16, 2011). Levitt, it goes without saying, was the initial plaintiff in the case.
According to Business Insider, the breach of contract lawsuit settlement affects those Southwest Airlines passengers who purchased tickets prior to August 1, 2012 through the Business Select program and received drink vouchers but did not redeem them–note, the settlement does not affect passengers who earned drink vouchers via the frequent flier program Rapid Rewards.
Further, BI reports that the drink voucher settlement entitles eligible fliers to new drink vouchers—even if they no longer have the original unused vouchers—for each voucher the passenger claims they had earned but not redeemed. The settlement drink vouchers will be good for one year.
Drink voucher lawsuit class members will reportedly be notified of the settlement and how to submit a claim over the next few weeks.
Chicago attorney Joseph Siprut, who represented the ‘took the drink right out of my hands’ victims, is quoted in BI as saying, “This settlement is a grand-slam result for the class, as consumers are recovering 100 cents on the dollar.” (not a shabby recovery, btw).
It’s estimated the Southwest drink voucher settlement could cost the airline in the area of $29 million, given that there are potentially 5.8 million fliers who are part of the class, having purchased and flown Southwest via the Business Select program between October 2007 and August 2010.