Home > News & Events > U.S. Supreme Court unanimously sides with position of Thompson Coburn airline client

U.S. Supreme Court unanimously sides with position of Thompson Coburn airline client

April 3, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 2 that an airline customer can’t pursue his breach of contract claims against an air carrier after he was removed from a “frequent flier” loyalty program.
The 9-0 decision, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, adopts the position asserted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claim was not preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. Thompson Coburn filed an amicus brief in the case, Northwest, Inc., v. Ginsberg, on behalf of IATA urging reversal of the Ninth Circuit.
The IATA was joined in its support of the airline by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the administration of President Barack Obama.
IATA’s brief highlighted the international implications of the Ninth Circuit’s decision.  IATA argued that the decision compromises the Federal Government’s ability to speak with “one voice” in matters of foreign commerce and creates impermissible conflicts with the Federal Government’s policies and obligations in the international sphere. It also explained the authority of the Department of Transportation to regulate airline practices in this area.

Warren Dean and Katie Kraft constructed the arguments, with assistance from Jonathan Benner, and prepared the brief on IATA’s behalf.
Founded in 1945, IATA consists of 240 member airlines from 118 countries representing 84 percent of the world’s total air traffic. IATA serves the airline industry by advocating the interests of airlines across the globe, developing global commercial standards for the airline industry, and assisting airlines in operating safely, securely, efficiently and economically.