In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit revived a class action lawsuit filed against Avior Airlines accusing the airline of forcing passengers to pay undisclosed fees in order to board flights from Miami to Venezuela. In its decision, the appeals court ruled that the class action suit could proceed and that the district court erred when it found the claims preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act.
Plaintiffs Roberto Hung Cavalieri and Sergio Enrique Isea purchased tickets for flights operated by the defendant Avior Airlines. According to the plaintiffs’ compliant, the plaintiffs purchased tickets from Miami to Venezuela. The itineraries and receipts for the tickets indicated that the price “included taxes and fees.” However, on the day of their flights, the plaintiffs alleged that the airline forced passengers to pay an additional $80 “Exit Fee” before they were permitted to board their departing flights to Venezuela.
The plaintiffs filed suit against the airline alleging that the undisclosed fee constituted a breach of their contracts with the airline, formed when they purchased their tickets. The plaintiffs sought to represent a national class defined as “all persons that Avior charged an Exit Fee, from five years prior to the filing of the initial complaint through the earlier of: (i) the date, if any, Avior changes its contract to expressly include Exit Fees; and (ii) the date of class certification.”
The putative class action got off to a rough start, however. The district court dismissed the lawsuit finding that the Airline Deregulation Act preempted the breach of contract claims. According to the district court, the Act preempts all claims related to related to prices, routes, and services and the plaintiffs’ claims fell into the purview of the Act because it related to pricing.
The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the Eleventh Circuit, which disagreed with the district court on the issue of preemption. After examining the issue of jurisdiction and satisfying itself that it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal, the Court recounted the history of the Act. As the Court explained, Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978 to eliminate regulation of air carrier prices. The Act includes a preemption provision, providing that “a State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority of at least 2 States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier.” Continue reading ›