Class action certified against British Airways for fuel surcharge on frequent fliers

Posted on: April 18th, 2017 by Steve Larson

After five years of legal battles, a class action was certified on behalf of over 170,000 disgruntled British Airways frequent fliers in New York federal court on March 31, 2017. The class action alleges that the fuel charge is arbitrary, and is not in accord with the Frequent Fliers contract. British Airways charges frequent fliers fuel surcharges when using rewards points to pay for flights. The charge can sometimes be up to $500.

The suit was originally filed in November 2012 when plaintiffs began to notice that the fuel surcharge the airline tacked onto ticket prices seemed more like an arbitrary sum rather than “a reflection of the fluctuating price of worldwide oil” as stated on the British Airlines website.

After failing to get the suit dismissed, British Airways changed tactics and argued that the class—which includes U.S. resident Executive Club members who used rewards points to pay for tickets between November 2006 and April 2013 and were forced to pay a fuel surcharge—lacked the commonality required for class status due to the fluctuating cost of fuel throughout the class period. However, the judge rejected this argument holding that the specific cost of fuel throughout the class period was irrelevant since the class held a uniform meaning of the term “fuel surcharge.”

Additionally, the judge rejected defendant’s argument that it would be impossible to ascertain the size and scope of the proposed class by pointing out that British Airways has its own database of Executive Club members that could easily be utilized to find potential class members.

The case is: Dover et al. v. British Airways PLC, Case No. 1:12-cv-05567, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.