Allege False Imprisonment, Fraud
Two American Airlines passengers
among the dozens stranded on diverted planes last year have sued
the Fort Worth-based carrier, alleging they were the victims of
false imprisonment, fraud and negligence.
One of the names should be familiar to ANN readers -- Kate
Hanni, founder of the Coalition for an Airline Passengers Bill of
Rights. The second lawsuit was filed by Catherine Ray, who like
Hanni was onboard a flight diverted to Austin, TX on December 29,
2006 due to storms over Dallas/Fort Worth. Both women were stuck
onboard their planes for hours, and weren't allowed off.
The lawsuits seek unspecified damages, and legal expenses,
according to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"The toilets became full and would not flush, and the stench of
human excrement and body odor filled the plane," according to the
lawsuit filed by Ray in Arkansas, which also alleges passengers
"suffered hunger, thirst, anxiety, physical illness, emotional
distress and monetary loss." Hanni's lawsuit, filed in her home
state of California, makes similar allegations.
Officials with the airline told the paper they hadn't seen the
suits, and could not comment. American Airlines spokesman John
Hotard stressed the airline learned from the experience, and
updated its system for dealing with storm-related delays and
As ANN reported, the airline
also reviewed its policies, and now lets passengers leave planes if
stranded longer than four hours -- less than half the time Hanni
and Ray spent stuck on their flights -- if conditions and safety
Hotard called the events in December 2006 "a major weather event
that no one predicted," adding 119 flights were diverted that day
-- the most since the events of September 11, 2001.
While an admittedly radical step, suing an airline for being
stranded isn't an unprecedented move. Lawyers filed a class-action
lawsuit against Northwest Airlines in 1999, covering over 7,000
passengers who were stuck for nearly 11 hours during a fierce
Detroit snowstorm. The airline eventually settled out of court for