The fraudulent actions of Hawaiian Airlines caused damage to Plaintiff and members of the Class and Subclasses, who are entitled to damages and other legal and equitable relief as a result.
This is alledged by Nataly Alvarez on behalf of herself and those named in a class-action lawsuit filed on April 20 in the United States District Court in Honolulu, Hawaii.
As a result of Hawaiian Airlines’ willful and malicious conduct, punitive damages are warranted.
Click here to read the full complaint filed in the United States District Court in Honolulu.
Bases for this lawsuit, the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”) has “issued an Enforcement Notice clarifying, in the context of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, that the U.S. and foreign airlines remain obligated to provide a prompt refund to passengers for flights to, within, or from the United States when the carrier cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight or makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.
The obligation of airlines to provide refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for services a passenger is unable to use, does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control (e.g., a result of government restrictions).”1 Indeed, the DOT’s Enforcement Notice makes perfectly clear that offering “vouchers or credits for future travel” is not an adequate or appropriate substitute for airlines’ obligations to offer refunds for canceled flights.2
Hawaiian is among the largest airlines in the United States and focuses heavily on travel between mainland United States and Hawaii, as well as destinations in Asia and the South Pacific. In 2019, Hawaiian carried over 11 million passengers.
Hawaiian’s business was disrupted as a result of government-mandated restrictions on travel in response to the coronavirus. Defendant Hawaiian announced in April 2020 that it was “reducing its scheduled service systemwide by 95 percent through April 2020,” with the “likelihood of similar reductions in May.”
The California Plaintiff, like many other travelers, was scheduled to fly with Hawaiian from Los Angeles to Maui. The plaintiff’s flight was canceled by Hawaiian due to the coronavirus travel restrictions.
In the cancellation e-mail to Plaintiff, Hawaiian claimed that Plaintiff could request a refund online. She was told that she would receive an e-mail once her refund had been processed.
Hawaiian also represents in its Domestic Contract of Carriage that a customer is entitled to a refund when Hawaiian cancels a customer’s flight entitles passengers to a refund when Hawaiian “refuse[s] to allow you, to travel for reasons relating to Flight Delays, Changes, Cancellations, and Aircraft Changes.”
The plaintiff requested a refund from Hawaiian, which never came. Further, upon information and belief, the Plaintiff would not have been able to get a cash refund, as Hawaiian is only offering credits.
In the lawsuit, it is alleged Hawaiian’s acts are in violation of the DOT’s Enforcement Notice, which requires airlines to provide “a prompt refund to passengers .when their carrier cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight. The DOT Enforcement Notice applies to “U.S. and foreign airlines.”
Hawaiian does not provide instructions online on what happens if Hawaiian cancels the customer’s flight. Instead, Hawaiian directs customers to “follow the instructions presented in the email.”
The e-mail, as noted above, only directs customers to submit a form requesting a refund. Hawaiian does not provide refund instructions or guidance in its coronavirus frequently asked questions, nor does Hawaiian provide refund instructions on its COVID-19 Travel
Hawaiian does, however, provide detailed instructions on travel waivers and rescheduling on both pages.
Hawaiian’s consumers have excoriated Hawaiian’s refusal or failure to provide its customers with refunds. For instance, like Plaintiff, customers on the website tripadvisor.com have stated:
At the time that Plaintiff purchased her tickets, she understood that she would be entitled to a refund from Hawaiian if her flight was canceled. However, the Plaintiff was deceived by Hawaiian regarding her right to a refund. Had Plaintiff been aware or had Defendant disclosed that she would not be entitled to a refund for canceled flights, she would not have booked through Hawaiian and would have used a different airline and/or booking company, one that would have refunded money for canceled flights.
As alleged herein, Defendant’s conduct was deceptive because it had the effect of deceiving consumers into believing that Hawaiian would promptly refund their airline tickets in the event that Hawaiian canceled their flights. The belief that Hawaiian would promptly refund their airline tickets in the event that Hawaiian canceled their flights was material because it was important to consumers and influenced Plaintiff’s and the Hawaii Subclass members’ decision to purchase airline tickets with Hawaiian. Specifically, Plaintiff and the Hawaii Subclass members would not have purchased airline tickets with Hawaiian, or would have paid less for them, had they known that they would not be promptly refunded by Hawaiian in the event that Hawaiian canceled their flights.
The action was filed by attorneys Bervar & Jones in Honolulu, Hawaii; Bursor & Fisher in Walnut Creek, California; Brusor & Fisher in New York, NY.
With travel and tourism at almost a stop, this lawsuit may only be the beginning of an avalanche of class action relief to be forced against airlines.
This may cause another enormous liability and drain of cash flow against the aviation industry in the United States.
A response received by eTurboNews was: Give the airlines a break, come on!