United Airlines is facing a class action complaint from customers who said they were charged online change fees, despite the airlines' assurances they would not, if they rebooked a flight with United within a year of cancelling their reservations.

John Sacchi and Stephen Simoni filed a complaint March 23 in Cook County Circuit Court, accusing United Continental Holdings, Inc., and United Airlines, Inc., of breach of contract by misleading customers by promoting on its website that customers who chose to cancel a reservation and use the ticket’s value toward another United flight within a year would not be charged a change fee.

Kyle Shamberg
Kyle Shamberg | Lite DePalma Greenberg

“This statement was false,” the complaint alleged, noting the United.com text was live for about nine months — from October 2016 to July 2017 — and United allegedly charged the fees to customers who canceled and rebooked within a year.

“United effectively required customers’ exclusive use of its website and reinforced the need to read-before-clicking by explaining that customers ‘save money by changing or canceling (their) reservation online, as a service charge applies to all charges made by phone,” the complaint said.

Both men say they used the website to cancel a flight reservation in June 2017. The complaint includes a screenshot showing that by clicking the “choose to cancel” option their tickets were irrevocably canceled. Yet each said when they attempted to use the canceled ticket’s value toward a new purchase, they had to pay a $125 booking fee.

The complaint also cited comments other United customers posted online, such as one customer who got a $296 credit after canceling a flight, but had to pay an extra $200 when buying a new ticket within 12 months. Another, they said, claimed in a post on United’s Facebook page United charged a $125 per-ticket change fee when trying to use credits from canceled reservations.

“Despite multiple such complaints by customers nationwide, United continued for months to execute these contracts on its website by assuring customers with the identical statement that ‘no change fee will be required,’ all while United continued to impose a fee of $125 to $200 per traveler to apply the value of customers’ canceled ticket toward a new flight,” the complaint alleged.

According to Sacchi and Simoni, United’s own records show it assessed such fees on at least 4,220 transactions, or roughly $441,000 “in improper fees.”

In addition to class certification and a jury trial, the plaintiffs want the court to award compensatory, punitive and statutory damages as well as restitution “and all other forms of equitable monetary relief.”

Representing the plaintiffs, and putative class attorneys, are attorneys Kyle Shamberg and Katrina Carroll from the Chicago firm of Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC.

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