Air Canada Flyer Drops Suit Over Virus Cancellation Refunds

By Mike LaSusa
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Law360 (September 1, 2020, 10:33 PM EDT) -- A Florida man told a federal court in Orlando on Tuesday that he wants to drop a proposed class action against Air Canada that claimed the airline breached its ticket contract by not refunding the ticket purchase price for flights canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thomas Levu and Air Canada filed a joint motion asking the court to dismiss the case with prejudice as far as Levu is concerned, but without prejudice as to the proposed class including anyone who purchased tickets from Air Canada or its affiliated lines for flights after March 1 whose flight was canceled and who was not provided a refund.

The filing said each side had agreed to pay its own attorney fees and costs, but an attorney for Air Canada told Law360 on Tuesday that the filing was not tied to any settlement. Counsel for Levu did not respond to requests for comment.

Levu alleged in his complaint filed in April that the airline, which he said had canceled more than 25% of its flights, was attempting to force customers to accept a credit for use on a future flight in contravention of its own contractual obligations as well as guidelines the U.S. Department of Transportation issued in response to the public health crisis.

Levu said he purchased a ticket in late January from Air Canada to travel on May 14 from Orlando to Toronto and then from Toronto to Tokyo. On March 27, he received an email from the airline informing him that the Orlando to Toronto flight had been rescheduled to depart on May 15, and then on April 6, he received another email saying the flight had been canceled.

Instead of refunding him the price of the canceled flight, which Levu says is promised in the company's ticket contract language, Air Canada told him that he could only use the money to book a different Air Canada flight within the next two years.

The suit asked the court to award compensatory damages or order specific performance of the refund provisions in the ticket contract, and also sought awards of prejudgment and post-judgment interest and attorney fees and costs.

Levu isn't the only air traveler who took on a major carrier over refunds for flights canceled because of COVID-19.

A number of airlines have been hit with suits over refunds, including American Airlines, British Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

American Airlines Inc. passengers are fighting a bid by the company to push the dispute into arbitration. The proposed class said its members entered into contracts with the travel agencies they used to book their tickets, so American can't compel arbitration under those contracts because it's not a party to them.

British Airways PLC asked a New York federal court in July to let it out of a proposed class action, saying one of the passengers must arbitrate his claims and the others have nothing to sue over because they received vouchers for future travel. The travelers in that case filed an opposition to that motion last month, but the court has not yet ruled on the issue, records show.

Southwest is also fighting the claims against the company. The airline filed a motion to dismiss on June 22, arguing its terms don't promise refunds for nonrefundable tickets. Then, it followed up last month, saying the addition of a new plaintiff did not change that analysis. The travelers in that case have also filed a response, but court records show the court hasn't decided the issue.

Levu is represented by Edmund A. Normand of Normand PLLC.

Air Canada is represented by Charles Wachter, Bradford D. Kimbro, Joseph H. Varner III, Christopher G. Kelly and Sarah G. Passeri of Holland & Knight LLP.

The case is Levu v. Air Canada Inc., case number 6:20-cv-703, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

--Additional reporting by Nathan Hale, Katie Buehler and Rachel O'Brien. Editing by Peter Rozovsky.

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