Meet Mitchell Berns. Delta slapped him with a bogus weather cancellation and, rather than sit down and take it, he booked himself and his family on another flight — then sued Delta in small claims court and won a default judgment. Berns is a lawyer, but he didn’t do anything that you couldn’t do.
Back at home, Berns did what any consumer with $15 (in New York City) and a working knowledge of English (or Spanish, in most states) can do: He filed a small-claims suit against Delta for $938. Delta did not show up to defend itself, so on June 12 he won a default judgment. When a legal analyst from the airline called him two weeks later to negotiate a payment, he declined an offer of frequent-flier miles (“Confederate currency,” in his words) and made a counteroffer: If you pay me within two weeks, I’ll knock $100 off. Delta agreed but asked for a confidentiality agreement. Berns said they couldn’t have both, and Delta took the discount. (A Delta spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)
“The lesson is, Don’t let them bully you with bogus cancellations,” says Berns. The whole thing took him about four hours, he recalls, resulting in earnings of less than half his hourly billing rate. “But I’d do it again,” he says. “That’s how good it felt.”