Supreme Court Seems Unlikely to Uphold Frequent-Flier’s Suit

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WASHINGTON — Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg of Minneapolis admits being both a frequent flier and a frequent complainer. He flew on Northwest Airlines about 75 times a year, domestically and internationally, earning enough miles to qualify for “Platinum Elite” status.

S. Binyomin Ginsberg, frequent flier who sued Northwest Airlines

Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg, shown in 2003, sued Northwest Airlines for canceling his frequent-flier account status. After an appellate court upheld his claim, it went to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments Tuesday. (Credit: Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

But he also complained a lot — about two dozen times in seven months, the airline says — demanding compensation for delays, lost bags and losing seats on overbooked flights that Northwest said the rabbi had reserved “with the purpose of being bumped.”

After Northwest terminated Ginsberg’s platinum status for “abusing” its frequent-flier program, the rabbi sued. “I had hundreds of thousands of miles, and I wanted them back,” he said, standing on the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, where his case was heard.

But based on justices’ questions and comments, the court appeared reluctant to grant U.S. travelers any expanded rights to sue airlines, pointing to a 1978 deregulation law that airlines use to shield themselves against lawsuits from customers over routes, rates and services.

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