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Discount Coupons in Airline Settlement Easy to Get, But Wait is Long With

March 23, 1993

Discount Coupons in Airline Settlement Easy to Get, But Wait is Long With BC-Airlines-Antitrust-Box

ATLANTA (AP) _ In approving a $458 million settlement of an airline price-fixing suit, a federal judge gave travelers two extra months to file claims for discounts on future flights.

U.S. District Judge Marvin H. Shoob approved the settlement on Monday and extended the deadline for filing claims to June 1. About 2.6 million claims already were filed while the case was pending, and attorneys say they expect about 1.5 million more.

″That will be the final extension,″ said Diane Nast of Philadelphia, one of the lead attorneys in the class action suit that accused the nation’s biggest airlines of using an industry computer system to jointly raise fares.

Martin Rudolph, a court-appointed claims administrator, said Tuesday he has two shifts working daily to process the paperwork. Claimants are expected to receive their coupons by the middle of next year.

Anyone who bought tickets on any of the nine airlines named in the suit between Jan. 1, 1988, and June 30, 1992, for travel to, from, or connecting at any of 34 airports across the country is eligible for the coupons. Only in a few selected cases will documentation be required.

The airlines named in the suit denied wrongdoing but said they agreed to settle the huge case to avoid a lengthy and expensive trial. Named in the suit were American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Midway Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Pan American World Airways, Trans World Airlines, United Airlines and USAir.

Even though Pan Am and Midway have gone out of business, people who bought tickets from them still are eligible for the coupons.

Essentially, those who purchased five or more tickets during the period or who took trips totaling $2,500 or more will be awarded coupons worth up to 10 percent of the cost of the original tickets. Those with fewer purchases will get vouchers worth up to $100.

The coupons can be used for 10 percent discounts on the price of each new round-trip ticket, and will be interchangeable among a variety of airlines, regardless of which carrier the traveler originally used.

″The certificates can be used toward the purchase of a ticket at any published fare ... from the most expensive last-minute business fares to the cheapest deep-discount promotional fares,″ Shoob said.

Tom Parsons, editor of Best Fares, an air-fare magazine based in Arlington, Texas, said anyone who is eligible should file a claim, even if the person stands to get only a few dollars in coupons.

″Since the investment - a postcard - is not much to take advantage of it, it would be foolish not to file,″ he said.

Parsons said the financially ailing airline industry, which bitterly denounced the antitrust suit, ironically may benefit from it.

″You’re going to see the suit become a marketing tool to stimulate business for the airlines,″ he said. ″For the leisure traveler, its going to stimulate travel. It’s an advertisement for the airlines.″

Parsons said he would not be surprised to see airlines that were not accused in the suit announce that they, too, will accept the settlement coupons.

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Editor’s Note: Claim forms are available from Airlines Antitrust Litigation, P.O. Box 267, Pennsauken, N.J., 08110-0267. Many travel agents also have the forms.

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