A Scottsdale, Ariz., travel agency is the lead plaintiff in a
class-action complaint filed against American Airlines, in response
to the carrier’s issuance of debit memos for tickets refunded
following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The suit, filed Aug. 5 on behalf of All World Professional
Travel Services in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accuses AA
of racketeering and “extorting money” from the plaintiff and
members of the class by forcing them to pay $200 per-ticket service
charges for processing refunds on behalf of American passengers
grounded in the days following Sept. 11.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and relief for
American’s alleged violation of the Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act.
The suit contends that, just after Sept. 11, the Department of
Transportation issued a directive to all carriers ordering them not
to apply “nonrefundability/penalty provisions” for tickets on
American initially authorized agents to process refunds for
passengers through the Airlines Reporting Corp., the suit argues.
The carrier later claimed that agents violated a rule barring them
from doing so and demanded they pay the $200 per-ticket debit
memos, which the airline issued in January 2002.
The airline also threatened to terminate the agents’ right to
sell AA tickets as well, according to the suit.
More than 3,000 agency locations received the debit memos in
question, according to an estimate in the lawsuit, but an attorney
representing the plaintiffs said only All World Professional Travel
Services is named in the suit.
American spokesman Tim Kincaid told TravelAge West the airline
has yet to file its response to the class action, adding only that
“we believe this suit and those allegations are without merit.”
Earlier this year, Mary Ellen May, owner of All World
Professional Travel Services, received $200 debit memos for four
American tickets refunded just after Sept. 11. American later sent
the debit memos, May was told, because she submitted the refund
requests through ARC rather than by mailing them.
Soon after, American notified May that it had goofed and it
reduced the debit memos to the value of the tickets, since they
cost less than $200 each. The debit memos were adjusted to $100.50
In March, May wrote a letter to TravelAge West about
the debit memos, and the letter caught the eye of attorney Linda
Platisha, who contacted the Arizona agency owner and encouraged her
to file suit. May has since heard from many other agencies hit with
the same debit memos some agents got them reversed simply by
calling the airline, while others are still fighting them, she
The inconsistency in American’s handling of the debit memos irks
May, but so does the airline’s apparent inflexibility. As a show of
good faith to the carrier, May remitted $25 per debit memo $100 in
all to the airline until the matter is settled. American
acknowledged the payment only by decreasing each outstanding debit
memo by $25.
“The airlines were promising everything and anything when all of
this was going on, trying to get people where they belonged and
keep people happy,” she said of Sept. 11. “And then once things
started settling down, the tune changed. It’s a shame they can’t
stand by the decisions they made when everything was in a high
Platisha is urging other agencies that have received Sept. 11
debit memos to contact her at lplatishalaw @aol.com for more
information on the class action. American has until mid-October to
file its response to the suit.
Platisha also hopes to hear from agents for another class action
she has filed against American, one that represents agents who have
received debit memos alleging their use of back-to-back and