Businesses whose employees must travel extensively may find themselves often frustrated by some airlines’ practices. This is an experience those flying out of Jacksonville International Airport likely share with their brethren around the state and the country. But for better or for worse, Congress has immunized the airlines from most causes of action. Federal law leaves enforcement in the hands of the federal government, and expressly preempts most state laws, which makes them inapplicable, and in turn leaves businesses relying on air travel with very little help.
True, a ticket is a contract and would-be plaintiffs can still sue for breach of contract. But the airlines have become quite good at protecting themselves at the expense of their passengers. And wrongful behavior in the nature of false advertising or consumer fraud that find their origin in state law must be reported to the DOT and will not be heard in Court.
One litigant just tried to find a crack in the airlines’ armor and argued that, if breach of contract remained actionable, so should a breach of the implied covenant of good faith that attaches to most contracts. The U.S. Supreme Court had none of it. The implied covenant would end up working to enlarge the contract’s terms, the Justices said, and only its express terms could be acted upon in Court. So the airlines’ legislative shield remains intact, and lawyers advising companies using their services will have to keep that in mind in order to serve their clients honestly and accurately.