US Supreme Court: Northwest (Delta) Vs. Rabbi

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This would be an ultimate Compensation Clinic case that has now made its way all the way to the highest court in the United States.

This case between the Rabbi and Northwest Airlines has gotten a lot press due to the hearing in the US Supreme Court yesterday.

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Northwest Airlines kicked Rabbi Ginsberg out of its WorldPerks frequent flier program in 2008 for too many complaints and booking himself on full flights in hope of getting bumped according to the airline. Northwest has since merged with Delta Air Lines and ceased to exist.

Rabbi sued the airline and Northwest’s view was that they can cancel any program member’s account at any time for abuse. You can read more about this case on NY Times (access here) or NPR (access here).

Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg, an educational consultant and lecturer, was cut from his frequent-flier program for, according to Northwest Airlines, complaining too often. Complaints over late luggage, lost luggage, long delays on the tarmac and so on.

According to Ginsberg, he never complained to flight attendants, gate personnel or pilots. Instead, he started at the top.

“I did exactly what they asked you to do,” Ginsberg said in an interview with NPR. “If you have a negative experience, they want you to give them feedback.” And so he did — a lot.

According to Northwest, he called the frequent-flier program 24 times within seven months to register what the airline viewed as complaints. Ginsberg was a very frequent flier, with top Platinum Elite status and approximately 75 flights a year. He says he never asked for anything when registering his complaints. The airline contends he “repeatedly asked for compensation.”

Whether asked for or not, the airline tried to soothe the unhappy flier. In 2007, Ginsberg was awarded nearly $2,000 worth of travel vouchers, 78,000 in bonus miles, and $491 in cash for a lost bag.

But then Ginsberg was notified by telephone that his frequent-flier status was being terminated because he had “abused it.”

Conclusion

This is definitely an interesting case. I could download the case files using PACER or, if someone already has them, he/she could point me out to the right direction where I could access them.

I think that this case illustrates how bad the CRM program Northwest used was, if they just kept doling out compensation and miles for every single complaint he filed.

It seems for me, however, that Northwest could have simply told the Rabbi that they would no longer entertain any complaints from him, but that he could keep his frequent flier account and continue flying with the airline.

Often the terms and conditions of these programs are so lopsidedly written in favor of the companies running them that there is very little left to protect the consumers.

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