By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Has this ever happened to you? “A mad-as-hell Manhattan lawyer is suing Delta Air Lines for $1 million, charging its "absolute incompetence" ruined his elderly mother's landmark birthday .” I stand shoulder to shoulder with that attorney as I too have my own dozens of horror stories involving America’s airline industry. Subsequent to 9/11, flying has become such a miserable experience that absent mass quantities of drugs, you will not find me voluntarily on an airplane anywhere.
Additionally, my time is precious to me. Those who have purchased chunks of it know just how expensive it can be. There is no shame in the value I place on my time. I alone determine the value for each moment. Only the market will determine whether there is to be a buyer. Each of us has in our minds a value, a certain dollar amount for which we are willing to trade away an hour of our time. Be it $10.00 or $100.00 or even $1,000.00; at some point, everybody would sell an hour of their time.
About eighteen months ago, the airlines started a new trend: suing passengers. Seeking restitution from passengers who caused a plane’s delay, “Air Canada has billed a passenger who verbally abused its employees $1,350 for delaying an overseas flight by 27 minutes.” The passenger remained adamant in his refusal to pay.
Having mulled this over with my morning coffee, I have concluded that the passenger should pay. Yes, the money is outrageous and yes, the airline is totally obnoxious in pursuit of its’ claim. But from my eagle eyed perspective, I applaud the airline and encourage their efforts to make the passenger pay.
Imagine the precedent.
“Dear Dr. Mengele (a/k/a my Dentist): Since you made an appointment with me for 2:00 p.m. but I was not seen by your staff until well after 3:00 p.m., enclosed herein please find my bill for $250.00; same being the value of one hour of my time.”
“Dear Department of Probation: Remember the six hours I sat and waited for you to commence your hearings at the Justice Center last week?”
“Dear State Farm Insurance: Because your insured did not drive responsibly and caused a minor collision on the highway but which collision resulted in a miles long traffic jam and my being late to a meeting by 35 minutes, enclosed herein please find my bill for ….”
It seems that the time has come to use the legal system to eradicate one of society’s most annoying creatures. Out there among us are those whose arrogance or incompetence (both?) cost us large amounts of time. If there is one incentive to get folks to keep their promises, to stop causing harm to others, and to get the hell out of the way, that incentive is a civil judgment.
Ironic it is that an airline is starting this trend. Of all the industries other than medicine and some judges I know, the travel industry is famed for its lack of ability to adhere to a schedule.
If the airlines want to start a trend whereby they will sue passengers who cause delays, then let these same airlines pay for the hours passengers sit in waiting areas, security checkpoints, runways, and flight times. Once a court sanctions remuneration for inconvenience and lost time, I intend to abandon my boycott of flying and become a frequent flyer. Given airline on-time records, I could fund my retirement within the next six months.
Heck yes I am offended the airline is suing that passenger. Moving about and being in groups, we all have to sacrifice one for the other. I have to wait for the guy in front of me to turn left even though doing so stops traffic for a couple of minutes. It seems to me it would be a much better world if my doctor was an hour late because he was actually taking the time to treat his patients instead of worrying about civil suits. This is the price we pay for sharing common space and doing business one with another.
Alas, such seems lost upon the airline. Thus, I encourage that passenger to pay the demand after commencement of an action. Set a precedent. Use the law.
Oh, and next time you take too long to pay for your groceries, and which delay causes me stress, you will be hearing from my lawyer.