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Consumer Savvy | BRIEFLY

Attorney Sues Over Nonrefundable Fares

June 24, 1998|Reuters

Hell hath no fury like a trial attorney scorned. That is the message of a Seattle lawyer who filed a class-action lawsuit against Alaska Airlines last week after losing about $4,000 on nonrefundable tickets he was unable to use. "It happened to me and I got angry," said Lem Howell, a veteran independent trial attorney. "And then it occurred to me there are a lot of people in this situation." In a 22-page complaint filed in King County Superior Court in Washington on June 17, Howell recounted how he purchased tickets last month for himself and several potential trial witnesses to travel to Fairbanks, Alaska. After the tickets had been purchased the case was settled, but the airline, a unit of Seattle-based Alaska Air Group Inc., refused to refund the money. A spokesman for Alaska Air noted that such nonrefundable tickets are standard practice in the industry. Howell contends the practice is patently unfair and a violation of Washington state's consumer protection laws. He said the strict terms listed on the ticket represent a one-sided "contract of adhesion" imposed on consumers who have little if any choice of carriers. He is seeking unspecified damages and asking for an order that would force the airline to change its practices.

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