A class action lawsuit against Southwest and Delta over checked bag fees has been certified.
The suit stems from Delta and Airtran both beginning to charge checked bag fees within weeks of each other. Those airlines were the two biggest in the Atlanta market, and of course Southwest subsequently acquired Airtran.
So even though Southwest has never charged checked baggage fees, they find themselves defending a lawsuit over collusion in how those fees were introduced and set.
It will be difficult to show collusion. American had already introduced checked baggage fees. Airtran was on record saying they could follow suit, but didn’t want to leading the way. So once their biggest competitor in Atlanta implemented these fees, they jumped on the bandwagon. It’s highly unlikely that Delta and Airtran colluded with each other, in my opinion.
Nevertheless, Delta has so far been fined millions of dollars over their failure to comply with discovery requirements in the case.
In 2011, it was learned that the airline had, among other problems, continued to overwrite old backups of e-mails on a server dedicated to preserving communications in the event of litigation. This resulted in the loss of some data from the months leading up to the launch of the baggage fees.
What’s more, even though Delta claimed to have turned over all relevant materials, the Department of Justice found relevant documents that hadn’t been produced while pursuing an unrelated investigation.
A review of these tapes turned up 60,000 pages of documents that should have been turned over to the plaintiffs. As a result, the court issued its first sanction against the airline, for nearly $1.3 million.
The ultimate fine is now over two and a half million dollars for willful violations, which doesn’t help make the case that they aren’t hiding anything.