A Continental OnePass member is suing Continental Airlines over increasing the number of miles needed for an award flight and close-in award ticketing fees. The lawsuit was filed by Ohio resident David Simon in March in the federal district court in Cleveland and his lawyer has requested a federal court to approve the case as a class-action lawsuit. If the class-action status is approved, other OnePass members can join in on the case against Continental.
David Simon attempted to book an award flight in January 2009 between Los Angeles and Cleveland for 25,000 miles, which is the number of miles needed for a domestic award ticket when he joined the program several years ago. There weren’t any SaverPass awards available, even though he was told by reservations agents that there were some empty seats, and the only award seats he could find were at the 50,000-mile EasyPass award level. He was able to book an award at the 25,000-level with partner Northwest Airlines, but was charged a $75 fee because he booked the flight within three weeks of the travel date. Simon’s lawyer said, “There is no justification for the charge, and there is nothing in the fine print authorizing it.” The charges against Continental include levying an illegal penalty, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
Continental makes it very clear that the airline can change the rules governing OnePass at any time, including increasing the number of miles needed for an award ticket and adding fees. According to the OnePass rules, “Continental Airlines and all OnePass partners reserve the right to change any aspect of the OnePass program at any time with 30 days notice to active members. This right includes, but is not limited to, changes in partner affiliation, rules for earning mileage credit, rules on earning Elite status, Elite benefits and mileage redemption levels.” While we may not like the award ticketing fees either, we don’t expect Mr. Simon to win this one.