Judge Grants Class-Action Status In Case Over Delta, AirTran Original Checked Bag Fees

Image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski

A lawsuit that stretches back to all the way to 2009 and the early days of baggage fees accusing Delta Air Lines and AirTran of colluding to implement their original fees for passengers’ first checked bags has finally achieved class-action certification.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten granted class certification in a case alleging that Delta Air Lines and AirTran were in cahoots, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The class consists of all customers who paid either airline a first checked bag fee on domestic flights between Dec. 5, 2008 through Nov. 1, 2014. The lawsuit is seeking damages totaling all first checked-bag fees paid during that time, with amounts tripling under anti-trust law. Payouts to consumers in these kinds of lawsuits often don’t amount to much, however.

That could mean possibly more than 28 million class members, according to the judge’s order. An appeal is expected, though Delta has not commented at this time.

Here’s the gist of the lawsuit: back in 2008, American Airlines was the first major U.S. carrier to decide to charge passengers for checking a bag. AirTran (which has now been integrated into Southwest) said it might do the same, but it would wait and see what Delta did.

A few weeks later, Delta announced it’d also be charging for checked bags, and AirTran followed suit. Both started charging the same fees for passengers’ first checked bags on the same day, Dec. 5, 2008. Other airlines soon joined, and antitrust investigators at the U.S. Justice Dept. launched a probe into the trend in 2009, followed by lawsuits from travelers accusing the airlines of collusion.

In the years between when this suit was originally filed and its now official class-action status, Delta has had to fork over millions in sanctions for being a bit tardy to the legal documents sharing party.

An attorney representing airline passengers who are plaintiffs in the case says his clients “are pleased to have the opportunity to seek to vindicate the rights of the millions of passengers who we believe were overcharged by Delta or AirTran for first bag fees.”

Baggage fee lawsuit now includes millions of fliers [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]