The Supreme Court heard a rather unusual case yesterday: the one about the rabbi suing Northwest Airlines over the termination of his frequent flier status. According to NPR, Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg was booted from the program because he had “abused it”—mostly by complaining.
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.”
Ginsberg was informed his frequent flier status was being terminated, and after further inquiry he was told it was because he complained too much. The airline says they had already given him “$2,000 worth of travel vouchers, 78,000 in bonus miles, and $491 in cash for a lost bag.” So he sued for $5 million in damages, and the case made its way to the Supreme Court, where its ruling may set an important precedent for future breach of contract claims against airline frequent-flier program.
It also raises the question of how the nation’s highest court will respond to that age-old struggle, airline vs. obnoxious traveler.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.