Tarmac Stranding Lawsuit Against American Airlines Seeks Class Action Status

If we had an award for most pissed-off consumer ever, it might go to Kate Hanni. After being stranded on the tarmac by American Airlines in 2006, she started a group called “The Coalition For An Airline Passengers’ Bill Of Rights,” which, since we first reported on it, has grown from a blogspot blog to a full blown lobbying group that has a tipline and issues press releases.

Now Ms. Hanni and another passenger are suing American Airlines over the incident, and are seeking class action status. From USAToday:

The plaintiffs, Kathleen Hanni of Napa, Calif., and Catherine Ray of Fayetteville, Ark., want courts to certify the cases as class actions covering thousands of passengers stranded on American flights when severe weather temporarily shut Dallas/Fort Worth airport on Dec. 29, 2006, forcing flights to go to other airports.

Both women’s flights were diverted to Austin. The complaints allege passengers suffered hunger, thirst, illness, emotional distress and financial losses when American (AMR) failed to supply the planes with food or water, empty the toilets or let passengers off.

The complaints were filed in state courts last week in Napa and Fayetteville.

Hanni’s complaint says the captain told passengers American’s management would not allow the plane to go to a gate. It says that after 9 hours 17 minutes, the captain declared an emergency so he could go to a gate.

During the delay, passengers received only a bag of pretzels and a cup of water, and the plane’s toilets overflowed, it says.

Hanni said American later gave her a $500 coupon for a future flight. She said she hasn’t used it.

Good job, American. Probably should have offered better refunds and apologies. Oh well, hindsight and all that. Have fun with the lawsuits.

Two fliers seek class-action suit against American [USAToday]


Edit Your Comment

  1. char says:

    I’ll refrain to refrain from jokes about the phallic nature of all these airplanes on the front page…

    crap, that wasn’t long.

  2. tadowguy says:

    Heck, I’d sue just for having to be in Texas an extra 9 hours.

  3. The_Truth says:

    That pics from Phoenix Sky Harbor!

    Woot, PHX Represent!

    or something

  4. howie_in_az says:

    @tadowguy: “Heck, I’d sue just for having to be in Texas”.


    @The_Truth: Pinal county, but just barely, checking in :)

  5. cde says:

    >_> CRAAP-BOR? Crap Bore is a crappy name for a group.

  6. bradite says:

    Hmmm. I was on a Southwest flight this summer that was redirected to another airport in Texas that wasn’t even open, and they let us off the plane and opened up the snack bar. Southwest FTW!

  7. overbysara says:

    go her! trapping people in a plane for 9 hours is just unbelievably sick and ridiculous.

  8. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    “Tell these two passengers to just go pick another airline and shut up!”
    “…but is it any different than 9 hrs in the air in the same tube. Take the $500 and move on to another carrier.”
    And I thought Consumerist commenters were cold-hearted evil bastards! :)
    Now I step aside for the airline shills and such…

  9. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I’ve always wondered why someone, anyone on one of these endlessly grounded flights with no food, water or toilets doesn’t have a sudden “health” issue.
    Then they’d have to return you to the gate.
    Because honestly, a couple hours on the tarmac would precipitate palpitations in a lot of people.

  10. CurbRunner says:

    @marsneedsrabbits said:
    “I’ve always wondered why someone, anyone on one of these endlessly grounded flights with no food, water or toilets doesn’t have a sudden “health” issue.
    Then they’d have to return you to the gate.”

    Actually it’s really pathetic, but as laws are written in the airlines’ favor at this point, they do not have to return to the gate for a sudden health issue.

    Now if it was an economic issue in their favor they be back at the gate quicker than a fly lands on shit.

  11. marsneedsrabbits says:


    So if a passenger begins to have clear symptoms of a heart attack while the plane is sitting on the tarmac with no immediate plans to do anything or go anywhere, they can just watch you die with complete impunity?


  12. CurbRunner says:


    As far as I know their are no rules that require them to respond to such an emergency. It’s pretty much up to the plane’s captain who is also operating under his employer’s economic stance/bottom dollar line on such issues.
    It’s not unusual for large corporations like airlines to actually have previous life or death economic trade offs calculated into their operating procedures.

  13. tomcatv1 says:

    I have a question, what if the majority of passengers or a good minority revolted and tried to escape the plane? Would they all be sent to Guantanemo? What could they realistically expect in legal consequences?

  14. CurbRunner says:

    @tomcatv1 asked:
    “what if the majority of passengers or a good minority revolted and tried to escape the plane?”

    Personally, I would actually support such an action.
    It’s sort of like Thomas Jefferson said: All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

    However, because as complacent sheep/citizens that we have become, we have allowed the Patriot Act to be codified, under which these passengers could be considered terrorists suspects.

    Given the increasing level of fascist reactions to even much less minor incidents lately in this country, I’d guess these passengers would be in some deep shit without a paddle or any habeas corpus.

    Perhaps they would just be disappeared after a dose of some rendition. But of course we wouldn’t know about that.

  15. esqdork says:

    @tomcatv1: Consequences? For one, being added to the “No-Fly” list would severely limit you ability to travel in the future.

  16. Barkeep1 says:

    I would have gotten arrested before I set in an airplane for nine hours. On a simple assault charge in Tx, you could be booked in an out jail in less than an hour. Hit somebody in the mouth and wait on the police to arraive. Your booked and released, And at the Delta counter hours before the American airlines gets there sh*T togather.

  17. JerseyJarhead says:

    It really does seem as though we lose our Constitutional rights when we step into an airport and more so when we step aboard a commercial airliner. You’d think that the airlines would oppose the “Gitmo-ing” of their environment as bad for business, but they’ve actually embraced it as a way to shut passengers up and attribute their legitimate complaints to security threats.

    In other words, complain about a bumping, stranding, cancelled flight, lost luggage, outrageous treatment, etc. and you’re labelled a security threat or even a terrorist. This has made it even easier for the airlines to blame the weather or ATC “flow issues” rather than a mechanical, or a crew that doesn’t show up or is below its crew rest requirements.

    JOIN Kate Hanni’s organization, sign the online petition and speak up. Or be prepared to live with this shit for years and years.

  18. liquiddamage says:

    I would wait a reaonsable amount of time- 3 hours maximum- and resort to self-help open the damn door, slide down the slide, and deal with the consequences later.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I have a family member that was on one of those flights and I know that there were gates open that AA refused to allow the plane to board there, they kept saying that the plane would depart but obvioulsy it never did. Oh and the judge never read over 10 depositions assosiated with this case before rulling it in favor of the airlines.
    I also know that there were planes taking off and landing at the same time these planes were just sitting there.
    The passengers were told that they would not get a free ticket to fly on another plane if they got off, so most of the passengers stayed on the plane, and the pilot even suggessted to stay on the plane as he said they would be leaving soon, which never happened….