Supreme Court Justices to Review Case by Frequent Flier

Photograph ©2008 by Brian Cohen.

The justices of the Supreme Court of the United States will hold one hour of oral arguments on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 pertaining to the review of the case of S. Binyomin Ginsberg — a rabbi who flies frequently to give lectures but his Northwest Airlines WorldPerks frequent flier loyalty program account was unceremoniously revoked in June of 2008 because he supposedly had the audacity to file 24 complaints within a period of eight months about the airline’s service and sought compensation which resulted in $1,925.00 in travel credit vouchers, $491.00 in cash reimbursements, 78,500 WorldPerks frequent flier loyalty program miles and the extension of a voucher for his son.
The revocation of his WorldPerks frequent flier loyalty program account prompted Ginsburg to file a class action lawsuit in January of 2009 seeking five million dollars against Northwest Airlines — whose merger with Delta Air Lines was approved by the United States Department of Justice in October of 2008 — in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. That case was dismissed; and a universal reversal of that decision by the appellate panel of three judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena in 2011 was key in leading up to the upcoming review of the case.
The justices of the Supreme Court are expected to decide as to whether or not Ginsberg has a right under state law for his case to be litigated — or whether it is preempted by a federal law which deregulated the airline industry back in the 1970s and prohibited parties from litigating similar claims against commercial airlines pertaining to a “price, route, or service” of the carrier.
A ruling in the case of Northwest, Incorporated versus Ginsberg is expected sometime during the spring of 2014.
I asked the following questions back on May 20, 2013: do you believe that Ginsburg might have been doing everything he can to procure as much money and benefits as he can from the airline — or does he have a legitimate claim? Regardless of what the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States decide, what implications could the outcome of this case potentially mean for memberships of frequent flier loyalty programs in the future?

  1. I think the answers to your first two-part question are both yes and that it should have been an “and” question, not an “or” question. This site is all about extracting maximum benefits from frequent flyer programs and Ginsburg simply seems to have taken this to another level. However, assuming he did not knowingly defraud or deceive the airline, did not specifically create situations which would set the airline up to fail (allowing for further complaints) and didn’t violate any specific laws or airline policies, I don’t see grounds for revoking his membership. The airline could have simply ignored the complaints (other than those made to the DOT) and waited for them to either stop or for him to get fed up and switch carriers. It certainly seems as though he has a case.

  2. Did he get any warnings? If he did then I think it’s fair as he was clearly being a nuisance to them and if his experiences with them were genuinely so unpleasant he should have gone elsewhere!
    If it was a case of them just snapping one day and withdrawing it then I think it’s completely unfair.

  3. Why did Northwest revoke his account? Why not just do what BA does: stop dishing out the compensation and just send a ‘we are very sorry’ email in reply.

  4. How can we possibly pass judgment on the merits of his case without knowing the specifics of the 24 various incidents? For example; did he complain that there wasn’t enough parsley with his in-flight meal? Did he frequently fly CRJ200s and complain about the small restrooms?
    Please list the 24 complaints.

  5. A quick review of the lawsuit noted the following alleged violations:
    1. Booking reservations on full flights with the purpose of being bumped
    2. Violation of tariffs
    3. Sale or barter of awards
    4. Harassing behavior toward airline employees

  6. The Supreme Court review will have nothing to do with the facts of this case, and will merely decide the preemption question; whether the 9th Circuit was correct in overturning dismissal and allowing case to proceed under state law, or whether federal law preempts the suit.

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