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American Airlines Bait-and-Switch Airfare Manipulation Class Action

American Airlines Plane in Flight

How would you like to go through all the steps of booking a flight—finding a great offer, inputting your airports, choosing your flights, making sure there are no extra charges, entering your credit card info—and then, after clicking Pay Now, you discover that the price has suddenly risen by as much as $100? That’s what this complaint claims happened to Plaintiff Margaret Schultz when she tried to book flights with American Airlines.

The class for this action is all US resident who

  • Accepted an American Airlines airfare offer on the airline’s website, navigating through the screens to make selections, entering payment information, and clicking Pay Now,
  • Then were informed that the airline was refusing to honor the offer, after which the airline returned the payment,
  • Then booked more costly airfare.

American Airlines is the largest airline in the world. But according to the complaint, it uses some of its substantial resources to hire computer engineers to manipulate flight prices. It does this by tracking behavior through “cookies” and other means, the complaint claims, to identify consumers who are likely to pay a higher price based on their browsing history and switch prices on them as they are trying to purchase tickets.

The complaint alleges that this is a bait-and-switch tactic and that the airline used it on plaintiff Schultz three times since October 2016.

On May 25, 2017, the complaint claims, Schultz saw an offer on American’s website for a flight from Washington, DC to Miami. It included airfare, all taxes and fees including baggage and seat fees, on specific aircraft, with flight numbers identified, for a specific time and date, for $197. All she had to do was enter the information it requested and click the Pay Now button.

Schultz made all the entries required, including payment information, the complaint said. On the final screen, where the Pay Now button was located, she was able to see all the details—the exact flight, date, time, seat number, and so on—as well as the price of $197. The complaint claims that this constitutes an offer, and that Schultz completed her part of the deal by clicking the Pay Now button. However, after she had clicked it, the complaint says, the company revoked the offer and raised the price to $297.

Schultz did not have any choice if she still wanted the ticket except to pay the higher price. But when she clicked the Pay Now button again, the complaint says, American again returned her payment and raised the price to $397.

Among the counts, the complaint names breach of contract and unjust enrichment, and requests monetary damages from American. 

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