Lawsuits: Man Takes Delta To Court For $1 Million After The Airline Ruined His Mother's 80th Birthday

Manhattan lawyer Richard Roth says he tried not to sue Delta Airlines after the airline’s “absolute incompetence” caused he and his family to rack up $21,000 in rental cars, clothes, hotels and airline tickets trying to get to Argentina for his mother’s 80th birthday party, but the airline wouldn’t answer his requests for reimbursement.

“I tried so hard not to sue them,” he told the New York Post. It all started with a rude flight attendant named “Britney…”

“Her conduct, which was disrespectful, obnoxious and outright rude, was the tip of the iceberg,” the suit says.

After landing, the family found out from a cousin who was on the connecting flight that it had been delayed by a half-hour, giving them just enough time to catch it.

When they arrived at the gate, however, Delta agent Ralph Damour told Roth “the flight had already taken off,” the lawyer claims.

When Roth’s son pointed to the plane outside the window, Damour said, “It has not left but you cannot get on,” the suit says.

“Damour, in an obnoxious, rude, and totally disrespectful tone, said: ‘The pilot is not in charge here. I am. All the pilot does is fly the plane,’ ” according to the suit.

The plane sat at the gate for another 20 minutes before it took off – without the Roths.

The next day, after a night in a motel, the family was told it would be weeks until they they could get another flight to Argentina. So, they called another airline, rented a car and drove to Miami to catch another flight. To top it all off, the lawsuit says Delta misplaced their luggage and didn’t return it until 4 days after their initial flight.

The airline has no comment.

‘AIR FARCE’ SUIT [NYP] (Thanks, Evan!)
(Photo: So Cal Metro )

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  1. Truvill says:

    They’re asking for too much, IMO.

  2. KlausKinsky says:

    It’s hard not to root for the NY lawyer who wants to stick it to Delta. I think a lot of people would love to get in on that action. Sue the bastahds!

  3. Sndtrkman says:

    Hey this could have all been avoided had the ticket agent let them on, but instead because of that one person’s incompetents, it’s going to cost Delta. Makes me glad I don’t fly a lot and I’d rather drive.

  4. B says:

    If Delta loses, they could go out of business. I don’t think they have a million dollars left.

  5. JollyJumjuck says:

    $21,000 in rental cars, hotels, clothes and tickets? Did they rent a limo, stay in the Presidential Suite, buy designer clothes and travel first class?

  6. AngryEwok says:

    $1M sounds a bit high.

  7. m1k3g says:

    Flying is a total f*ing nightmare these days as far as I’m concerned. It’s glaringly obvious that executive management the airlines has taken the attitude that customers are basically hostages to treated as poorly as possible, and the trickle down effect is in full force. Unfortunately the airlines are between a rock and a hard place, with the (George F*ing Idiot)Bush administration & the TSA (Terrorist Security Agency)pushing for more & more intrusions into our privacy, and the price of fuel skyrocketing (also thanks, in part, to GFI Bush and his clan), it’s a no-win situation. They could improve the whole thing with some badly needed customer service training, but Sr Management obviously has better things to do with their time than worry about ‘the little people’ who PAY THEIR SALARIES (for now).

  8. mmstk101 says:

    @JollyJumjuck: yeah, for real. Maybe they actually bought a car?

  9. sourrob says:

    @JollyJumjuck: The article says that 5 total people in the family missed the flight. So, take the cost for a last minute international ticket and multiply it by 5 and it’s probably closer than you think.

  10. smythe says:

    @JollyJumjuck: Try a last minute international flight for a family of four.. that alone could get you close to 20K.

    And anything less than a million these days wont get anybodys attention.

  11. tmed says:

    If it is too much, the jury can award less, or nothing. If there is merit Delta will settle. If Delta was decent and proactive after causing damage, it would have solved this problem by now.

  12. sir_pantsalot says:

    If he were not a lawyer I might have some sympathy and or actually believe his story.

  13. s25843 says:

    Prehaps the Gate Agent had already closed out the flight, and couldn’t re-do the paperwork, since the pilot had already signed off on the weght/balance sheets?

    Just because the plane is sitting there, dosen’t mean its freely able to be boarded by late pax.

  14. statnut says:

    @smythe: Bingo. A million is enough to get media attention which is the key. Piss poor service all around, but it doesnt surprise me these days.

  15. cybercjh says:

    The gate agent’s comment, ‘The pilot is not in charge here. I am. All the pilot does is fly the plane’ is enough to warrant $1M by itself as far as I’m concerned. This guy should get $100M. Then, the airlines will realize that their job is to do whatever they have to do to transport people from one place to the other. That is, after all, why they claim to be in business. Or, they in business to collect fees? I forget.

  16. Szin says:

    So, can we please get to work on Bullet Trains or Mag-Trains already?

  17. ideagirl says:

    @smythe: That was my thoguht. $21,000 doesn’t seem at all unreasonable given the circumstances and the itinerary

  18. Did they screw up the dry cleaning on his pants, too?

  19. ptkdude says:

    At least they didn’t lose his pants!

  20. y2julio says:

    anyone catch this?
    “After landing, the family found out from a cousin who was on the connecting flight that it had been delayed by a half-hour, giving them just enough time to catch it.”

  21. Buran says:

    @s25843: Or perhaps she was a power-trippy bitch who picked the wrong person to screw with and is now going to cost her company money all because she was too powertrippy and full of herself to open the door. It wasn’t the family’s fault!

    (except someone here will manage to make it their fault anyway I’m sure)

  22. WhirlyBird says:

    @m1k3g: “executive management … has taken the attitude that customers are basically hostages to treated as poorly as possible”

    Unfortunately, that’s how most businesses operate these days. It’s cheaper to advertise for new customers than to spend time making the current ones happy.

  23. CharlieInSeattle says:

    @Truvill: No they aren’t. You want media attention towards this, that’s why you sue for a higher number.

  24. dualityshift says:

    $1 million is a fair number.

    Anyone who has traveled with small children in tow knows how stressful a smooth trip can be, let alone one with a few mishaps.

    Imagine being in an unfamiliar city, having a nagging wife and a couple screaming kids, being denied access to your confirmed flight then discovering they won’t fly you out for another couple weeks. That’s enough stress for anyone, and most people would have cracked and book flight back home.

    I hope he wins.

  25. I am never one to blame the consumer on here, but this is a little ridiculous. Boo hoo, your flight was delayed two hours and Delta couldn’t accommodate you because all of their flights were full during the middle of the holiday travel rush. So now you’re suing them for a million bucks? Great, now my airfare goes up again.

    Reimburse them for their expenses, sure. But don’t go after them because you think you deserve top-notch treatment from an airline. If you’ve flown in the last 10 years, you should know that nobody gets that kind of service anymore.

  26. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    It’s obvious that all the whiny corporate apologists on here never fly internationally. I do, on a regular basis. And I often have to book tickets at the last possible minute. For a family of four the tickets alone, booked for a next day flight, could run $20K.

    And as far as the million dollar suit: it’s called punitive damages. As in the kind of suit that’s brought to let a corporation know that such behavior is inexcusable and not to be tolerated. In a case like this, it’s pretty obvious that the gate agent simply didn’t want to do his job. I don’t know of any airline that won’t hold an international flight for that short of a time so that connecting passengers which they know, according to the flight manifest, are in transit and will be there, can board. This isn’t like a L.A. – S.F. commuter flight where there will be another in an hour.

    Delta should have fired the gate agent immediately for gross incompetence, and refunded all of their costs. And possibly thrown in something to sweeten the pot. I have no sympathy for Delta whatsoever.

  27. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @cybercjh: Along with multi-billion dollar bailouts from the government.

  28. What was his connection time AS BOOKED? That’s the key, IMO. If you are booking an international connection with less than a 2-hour layover (being conservative), then I feel you’re partly to blame for your planning, assuming there were decent options available. Cutting it close is cutting it close, I don’t care what aspect of life.

    But maybe the airlines themselves should do all the thinking for us…I trust them to make good decisions.

    Some stories have too much detail, some have too little.

  29. ironchef says:

    He’ll show up in court wearing a neck brace.

  30. Buran says:

    @y2julio: The story doesn’t say it, but I suspect their first flight was delayed. Around here the airlines can’t run on time come hell or high water (and this being a river town, the high water has already come).

  31. Lambasted says:

    Hmmm…I can see it both ways. Don’t airlines disclaim that you assume the risk when scheduling connecting flights because there is a possibility that you could miss it due to delays, so proceed at your own peril?

    I think anyone who has flown has missed a connecting flight a time or two. Your flight is delayed for one reason or another. When you reach the airport, you depart the plane and make a dash for your connecting flight. Sometimes you make it, sometimes not. When you don’t make it, usually they can get you on the next flight. Unfortunately in this case, there wasn’t another flight.

    However, since the plane was still there, the agent should have called the Captain and asked permission to let the family board. Otherwise, I find it hard to believe that Delta couldn’t find seats on other flights for them, even if it meant splitting up the family.

    I’ve had very nice ticket agent call ahead to hold a flight for me once. I explained I was flying oversees on a group tour and I had to be on that connecting plane otherwise I wouldn’t make it to Europe in time before the tour left, leaving me stranded in Europe by myself with no way of meeting up with the group.

  32. ViperBorg says:

    @dualityshift: Agreed. Nevermind the fact that a ticket to Argentina on really short notice like that isn’t going to be cheap. Let’s think here, people.

  33. jeffjohnvol says:

    Frigging Lawyers.

  34. Wormfather says:

    @eastvillageidiot: RTA, because at first, all he wanted was to be reimbursed. They blew him off so now he’s taken it up a notch. Personally, I hope he gets that million.

  35. firesign says:

    considering what a “reliable” news source the new york post is (for those who don’t know, the nyp is a rag not above making shit up), i would suspect this story has either been sensationalized or falsified in one way or another.

  36. Sasquatch says:

    @Sndtrkman: “Makes me glad I don’t fly a lot and I’d rather drive.”

    True, but that’s a difficult strategy to implement when you’re going to Argentina.

  37. whylime says:

    @Ash78 if you read the linked article, it says that their first flight was delayed 2 hours. He would have had a 2 hour layover had his first flight been on time.

  38. AD8BC says:

    @Szin: To Argentina?

  39. bravo369 says:

    I know the airlines are losing money but as far as i’m concerned, if they cannot provide what was paid for then they should be responsible for all other costs. for example, if i book a flight to be somewhere on Thursday at 11am but they cannot get me there until Saturday 6pm then they should be required to pay for the hotel i had booked or the cruise i had or anything else. barring weather related delays, everything else is their fault

  40. kaptainkk says:

    “I tried so hard not to sue them,”…he says. What kind of retarded statement is that?! This dude just needs to get over it. Or better yet, take a long walk on a short plank.

  41. ornj says:

    Man “Talkes” Delta to court? I’m assuming whoever proofreads for Consumerist is on vacation because the spelling/grammar recently has been pretty crazy.

  42. lmbrownmail says:

    Once the door to the ramp is closed, the gate agents are not allowed to open it to board straggling passengers – period. It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is that the passengers are late.

    I’ve had it happen to me and it’s frustrating. But then I didn’t go all bolshie on the gate agent. So he checked and got me on the next flight to my destination.

    Not particularly blaming the consumer, but – could his attitude have had anything to do with the problems?

  43. Karunamon says:

    Though ten bucks says that this lawyer was an arrogant el dousche from the moment he hit the concourse, I’m hoping he wins this.

    What would be more interesting if this was a class action lawsuit and the settlement wasn’t just a paltry million.. something like a few hundred million to be divided among the people (including myself) who delta screwed over.

    They’d be out of business. I don’t even think delta has the 1m.

  44. mikelotus says:

    @firesign: that’s nice, what else do you suspect?

    That’s crap about weights, etc. Before 9/11, I had Delta open the gate and plane door for me if it was still at the gate. Screwing your high paying customers is why they are on a losing path. I like Delta, but anyone that defends them here clearly does not fly much. I had an American flight shut the gate 10 minutes early because they wanted to leave early due to strong head winds. The idiot at the gate told me that this has always been their policy and you can see it on their website. As if I booked on their website versus through corporate travel. Evidently if you fly on an airline, they expect you to now go to their website and familiarize yourself with all of their rules which also means what is latest you can check in which varies per airport. Guess putting that information on the e-ticket is just too difficult.

    @WhirlyBird: It is never cheaper to get new customers than retain the current ones. That is why the major airlines are on a downward spiral for now.

  45. The Porkchop Express says:

    @y2julio: doesn’t that mean that they would have missed the flight anyway? I mean was the connecting flight delayed? they would know if the flight they were on was delayed.

    Now I have to go back and RTFA

  46. blindwatchmaker says:

    “caused he and his family to rack up $21,000 in rental cars”

    Him, not he.

  47. danseuse322 says:

    How about suing for $21,000 plus court costs and maybe some reasonable time and such. 21K becomes 1 million. It’s hard to be sympathetic to greed. Fix it, reimburse, offer something for the awful time, but seriously…

  48. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @eastvillageidiot: “you should know that nobody gets that kind of service anymore.”

    Which is exactly why they should be suing for $1M, to show the airlines that they NEED to be providing decent and polite service.

    Yes, the amount is far higher than what the consumer may be owed here, but it is much, much lower than what it will take to teach the airlines to start treating their passengers like human beings again.

  49. baristabrawl says:

    Her name was Britney, I ask you…

  50. coren says:

    @kaptainkk: What kind of retarded comment is that. You should take a short walk off a long plank lolololol

    Seriously, he tried to be compensated, they wouldn’t bite, so he’s doing this not only to get his money but also to garner attention to Delta’s poor customer service – suing for say 50 thousand wouldn’t do that.

  51. coren says:

    @ornj: I’m more amused that it took an hour and a half for someone to even comment on it

  52. swags says:

    @mikelotus: “It is never cheaper to get new customers than retain the current ones. That is why the major airlines are on a downward spiral for now.”

    Modern creative accounting makes it look otherwise, but I agree. You do not need to spend as much in marketing towards people that already know your product and service. I also think most customers will not jump ship for marginal savings if you reward their loyalty with good service. Unfortunately companies tend to cut service first and muck up the entire works.

  53. BlondeGrlz says:

    Part of my epic Delta nightmare involved a similar situation. We ran to catch a connecting flight at the gate displayed on the monitors, only to be told the gate had changed once we got there. When I asked the gate attendant if she could call the other gate to let them know we were on our way, she said “No. I guess you better run.” in the rudest tone ever. God I hate Delta.

  54. jcf70816 says:

    One thing the above posting from Consumerist doesn’t mention that needs to be known is that this family was flying on FREE tickets to start out with.

  55. saralegal21 says:

    @kaptainkk: The dude just needs to get over it? Seriously? A loss of $20,000??? Would you just “get over” that? That is ridiculous.

    And yes, he tried not to sue. He waited almost six months for Delta to pony up a remedy. How much longer is he supposed to wait? The statute of limitations on a lot of contract actions is a year. If he twiddles his thumbs and continues to wait for Delta to reimburse, he would be completely SOL down the road.

  56. cristiana says:

    I do not know how they racked up 21k in anything. Because I just went to a travel site, and got the rates for a trip to Argentina from Miami, and the most expensive was $1961 per person and the cheapest was $686 per person. Even at the most expensive the flight would have cost a little under 10k for 5 people.

  57. ColoradoShark says:

    @JollyJumjuck: How much would it be to walk up to a counter and buy a last minute ticket from Miami to Argentina for a person? $1000 would be cheap, it was probably $2000. Assume 10 people are going to an 80th birthday and $21000 is easy to believe.

  58. 7degreesnorth says:

    Time and again, Delta have gone above and beyond for me as far as customer service goes. I also think their flight attendants are the most professional and friendly in the business. Maybe I’m partial, being from Atlanta, but I have to wonder how this guy approached the situation.

    In all honesty, whenever I have had a conversation with Delta about any problems I’ve encountered, including last-minute travel due to a death in the family, last-minute changing of ticket dates due to an unexpected and unavoidable jury summons, and even getting in too late to make my connection, I addressed the issue with customer service as though I was speaking to respected friends of mine (sounds lame, but I’ve been flying them for years, and I kinda feel that way), and they have always had a remarkably positive response. Fees waived, tickets changed, etc. After years of this, I. Just. Don’t. Believe. This. Guy’s. Story.

  59. whatdoyoucare says:

    Roth should have offered Damour $500 bucks (as a starting point)to get the family on the plane. I bet he would have taken it.

    I’m only sorta kidding.

  60. VikingP77 says:

    I believe the story. When you’re flight is late for your connection the airline just tries to put you on their next flight which sometimes is not until the next day depending on the market. IF anything comes from this is Delta and all the rest HAVE got to do something! They’ve had their up their asses for years and nothing has changed obviously. I remember a few years ago Delta rolled out a designer flight attendant uniform and it was Kate Spade or something. I just kept thinking seriously if the service under the uniform is crappy what do I care what they are wearing???!!!

  61. Thorny says:

    Boo the f*ck hoo! My small violin is playing right now. I have had many a crappy vacation ruined by bad weather and/or family members and never got to sue anybody for that!

    As far as I am concerned, you sue for the money you lost and THAT’S IT. There is no reason that this person should get a Sweepstakes bonus since they were inconvenienced.

    Because frankly, I don’t want part of my next Delta ticket purchase to go to this asshole…because you KNOW it just comes out of or own pockets, right?

  62. b612markt says:

    I know I am not alone when I say that air travel is a huge P.I.T.A. and just kind of sucks. That’s why I bought my first car, right in the middle of $4 a gallon gas prices. My sanity is worth it! (and FYI, my vehicle is an ULEV)

  63. $21K in extra costs?

    Oh get real.

    Delta may be at fault, but $21k in extra expenses becoming $1M in a lawsuit is not going to fly when the $21k was grossly overstated.

  64. Jon Mason says:

    I want to introduce this man to two words: Travel Insurance.

  65. Craysh says:

    @Szin
    The current railroad is practically going bankrupt, what makes you think that a country as huge as ours with such a widespread population can keep a brand new system like that alive without billions in government subsidies?

  66. Thorny says:

    @masonreloaded: Yes, yes, yes. I completely forgot about travel insurance! Okay, now I even hate this guy more. Yeah…if you’re going to spend THAT much, then travel insurance is a good idea.

  67. babyowl says:

    This is the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard of. I fly alot…and I do mean alot and airlines make mistakes. We all do. But this man deserves to lose. Air travel has become a nightmare….but $1 million dollars….give me a break. He is crazy as a loon and so is anyone here who agrees with him. And I truly believe that most of you making comments here in favor of him, have either never flown or fly so little you couldn’t know what you’re talking about even if you wanted to.

  68. sodden says:

    @Thorny right, because bad weather or family members ruining your vacation is really comparable to outright airline incompetence keeping you from flying internationally.

    For the rest of you insisting that $21k is way too much, go price the cost of buying 5 tickets to argentina at the counter.

  69. Tonguetied says:

    It’s pretty simple. Sue for $1M settle out of court for $100K and an abject apology. That way you get your original losses back plus punitive damages.

    In law, as in many areas, you aim high so that you can get what you really want.

  70. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    @kaptainkk: Why don’t you take a plank and shove it? Delta was rude to him at EVERY turn. I understand that real people work at airlines and that they have families…but that particular employee seemed to be a real bitch.

  71. hexychick says:

    @y2julio: I’m failing to see the issue you’re trying to point out unless you’re talking about the “after landing” portion. If you have a connecting flight, some times you have to fly in from one ariline, land, go to another terminal, and take off from there. Is that what you’re referring to?

  72. vladthepaler says:

    It’s bad service, but not remarkably so. Late/missed flights happen all the time. He wants a million dollars because he missed a connecting flight? Wonder if he’s friends with fancy-pants…

  73. rhmmvi says:

    Travel is inevitably going to cause foul-ups. If you have somewhere you absolutely have to be (i.e. somebody’s 80th birthday or a wedding or a graduation), suck it up and go earlier. It’s all about probability – what’s the probability that you’re plans will get screwed up, followed by the effect of plans getting screwed up, then from there make a decision on how much extra time. It’s essentially like going to work in the mornings – if you have an important meeting in the morning you’re not going to take the last possible bus or train to get you there on time…you go a bit earlier in anticipation of a foul-up. The more important the meeting is, the more important it is you arrive earlier.

    People think air travel owes them so much – it does not. It’s a complicated, messy business that costs a lot of money to run and has seen a dearth of good management. Lower your expectations – assume your flight will be delayed (bring a book or some work to do) and baggage won’t be delivered – if the flight is on time and you get your bags, it’s a good day. If not, at least you are sufficiently prepared for that eventuality. Freaking out at every foul-up in travel is a sure-fire way to make yourself crazy. If you want to make some changes so you don’t always assume the worst, contact your legislator, buy some stock and go to a shareholder’s meeting, write a complaint letter – but suing for $1M because of poor planning is absurdity at it’s best. If the airline is gracious they’ll cover his costs-but you, and you alone bear the blame for poor planning.

  74. WBDFQ says:

    I normally HATE lawyers, but this guy gave Delta every oppotunity to make this right and never bothered. Sue the pants off them.

  75. spoork says:

    I think there is a lot about the anecdote that has been left out. I’m not saying that he spent a lot of money reaching his destination, but 21K does seem a bit outlandish.

    Last minute tickets bought at the airport are expensive, but we’re missing details. What kind of car did he rent; what hotel did he stay at; how much clothes did he buy, etc.

    Plus, he was a bad consumer and didn’t ask for vouchers for that stuff to begin with.

    Not saying tha the airline is in the free and clear, but I don’t think all the blame lies with Delta.

  76. Nick1693 says:

    Time for rule 240?

  77. BrockBrockman says:

    So much off-the-cuff guesswork in terms of whether or not this is a valid case. People are making judgments based on a story skewed to sell newspapers.

    If you really want to keep track of the case, go to the Manhattan Supreme Court website and look up case number 601584-2008. You can read his full side of the story and better judge whether or not the $21,000 bill is outrageous.

  78. earthwalker7 says:

    if he asked for, say, $100k, I might be more sympathetic. Delta should be taught a lesson in “don’t f* your customers” but within the bounds of reason.

  79. starri says:

    @TheRealAbsurdist: Punitive damages are generally not applicable in a contract dispute, which this is.

    And even it wasn’t, he would need to show that Delta acted in bad faith, which doesn’t seem to be the case.

  80. onlymeonline says:

    Believe what you read. A few years ago while comuing back from Aruba, we landed in Miami (which is a nightmare terminal) and literally ran to the next gate. Our friends had already made it to the gate and were ready to board. They said we were coming and could see us running as fast as we could. As we arrived at the gate, the attendant said we were too late. He asked our friends if they wanted to board and they declined. We were driving together once we arrived back at our home airport. The attendant proceeded to tear up the boarding passes of our friends and allow some standby passengers to board in our place. Consequently, we never go through Miami airport anymore and use a different airline who is more responsive to our needs. My husband wrote a letter to the airline and we have a copy.

  81. strathmeyer says:

    “if he asked for, say, $100k, I might be more sympathetic. Delta should be taught a lesson in “don’t f* your customers” but within the bounds of reason.”

    Why on earth would $100,000 make Delta change their ways? What is wrong with you people?

  82. coren says:

    @BrockBrockman: Unfortunately you can’t actually see anything when you look up the case, other than it’s been filed.

  83. barty says:

    @dualityshift: Simple fix to that situation. Unless you’re going to a funeral or other family emergency, don’t travel on an airplane with kids less than the age of five. I didn’t even fly at all until I was 14 years old!

    Totally escapes me why people think they must travel with their screaming kids. When you decide to have children, you’ve got to accept that you won’t be able to do everything you once could, which includes getting on an airplane.

    @lmbrownmail: I agree. He probably puffed up his chest and tried playing the grade school, “I’m a lawyer and I’m going to sue you” game once he missed the connection. While it doesn’t totally excuse the gate agent for not helping him in face of his probable rudeness and arrogance, if I were sitting on the jury for the suit, I’d definitely press to have the guy reimbursed for nothing but actual damages just for acting like a horse’s rear end to the agent. Speaking personally, if you treat me like some kind of worthless sub-human right from the start, I’m going to be less inclined to take some extra steps to help you out. It goes both way folks. Suing for $1M in this case is just as stupid as the judge who sued for $50M because the cleaners lost his pants. Some times you’ve got to suck up your ego and move on…