In Which An $8 In-Flight Video Charge Led To A $5M Class Action Lawsuit Against United Airlines

Image courtesy of (Paul Thompson)

When buckling in for an hours-long flight, travelers might choose to pass the time by reading a book, listening to music or enjoying a few television shows or a movie via the in-flight services connection. While those are all viable options, the latter is typically only available under certain circumstances. But one woman says that wasn’t made clear, and now she’s suing United Airlines for $5 million. reports that the woman filed the hefty class action lawsuit [PDF] in federal court alleging that the airline defrauded customers by not disclosing that WiFi and DirecTV services were inoperable while the plane was traveling outside of the U.S. or above water.

The ordeal began back in February when the traveler – who was flying from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Newark, NJ – paid the $7.99 fee to watch in-flight DirecTV during the four-hour trip. However, she claims the service only worked during the final 10 minutes of the flight.

According to the lawsuit, this service failure was due to the fact that the flight traveled, for the most part, outside of the continental U.S. and over large bodies of water.

“Despite this known limitation, United sells these services to passengers on the flights and fails to disclose that the services will not work as advertised when the aircraft is outside the continental United States or is over water,” the lawsuit states. “It is not until they have crossed U.S. borders or are over water, with no service, that customers learn that their DirecTV and/or WiFi service will not work for all or part of the flight.”

The woman claims that at no time before or during the process of purchasing the DirecTV service was she informed that the service would not work on her particular flight.

“In fact, throughout the representative Flight (substantially all of which is over water) United advertised to passengers via the TV screen to ‘SWIPE NOW” to receive over 100 channels of DirecTV’,” the suit states. “Nowhere does United disclose that this advertisement is intentionally false, made to induce passengers to swipe their credit card in-flight, knowing that the services passengers thought they were purchasing were unavailable.”

Chicago-based United Airlines denied the lawsuit’s allegations, and filed a legal memorandum seeking dismissal of the case, reports.

The airline maintains that passengers are informed of the services’ limits by notices displayed on back-seat monitors that reads, “Live DirectTV programming is not available while the aircraft is outside of the continental United States” and that “Wi-Fi service is available over the continental U.S.”

NJ woman sues United over disclosure []

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