Kvetching rabbi will have his day in (Supreme) Court

Justices to hear case of S. Binyomin Ginsberg, the frequent-flier who ‘complained too much’ about Northwest Airlines

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

Northwest Airlines A320 upon takeoff in San Jose, California, 2007. (photo credit: Dylan Ashe, CC, via wikipedia)
Northwest Airlines A320 upon takeoff in San Jose, California, 2007. (photo credit: Dylan Ashe, CC, via wikipedia)

The US Supreme Court stepped into a dispute between Delta Air Lines and S. Binyomin Ginsberg, a rabbi who sued Delta-owned Northwest Inc. “after he was kicked out of its frequent-flier program for complaining too much,” the Associated Press reported on Monday.

According to the website Flyertalk, Northwest Airlines dismissed Ginsberg from its WorldPerks Platinum Elite frequent flier loyalty program in June 2008 because he filed 24 complaints within a period of eight months about the airline’s service and sought compensation. Ginsberg, a frequent lecturer, filed a class-action lawsuit in January 2009 seeking $5 million against the airline in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

Ginsberg flies up to 75 times a year on business, according to a USA Today report on the case. Other outlets have claimed he flies “hundreds of times a year.” The rabbi writes parenting columns for several Jewish outlets and is the education director for Living Lessons.

In an interview with the Minneapolis Citypages in August 2011, Ginsberg said, “This happened at the time that Northwest and Delta were merging. The suspicion was that they had too many frequent fliers at the higher status in their roll, and they were showing too much of a liability on a balance sheet for the accumulated miles by those passengers. So they had to creatively find ways of getting rid of people.”

Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg
Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg

The District Court dismissed Ginsberg’s original case. But the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it, saying that “Ginsberg could argue whether the airline acted in good faith.”

The current case before the Supreme Court centers around how much freedom airlines have in setting their own policies and prices. The point in contention is the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 which is meant to prevent lawsuits regarding “price, route or service of an air carrier.”

The case is set to be heard in the court’s fall session, which begins in October.

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