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Southwest Airlines Owes Passengers Free Drinks: Settlement

Southwest Airlines will be issuing a lot of free drinks -- almost 12 million actually -- after settling a class action lawsuit over drink coupons.

A class of plaintiffs, led by a Chicago lawyer, sued the airline claiming that they were denied use of their drink vouchers that came with their premium Southwest Business Select seats.

The airline claims that the vouchers were good only for a single flight, but the passengers believed they were entitled to use any unused vouchers on later flights, as the coupons bore no expiration date. Both sides agreed to settle the matter for an amount up to $58 million.

Attorney Adam Levitt brought the lawsuit in 2010 claiming breach of contract and consumer fraud. He apparently boarded a flight after paying a Business Select fare, but saved his drink voucher for a later flight. On the later flight, he was told his drink ticket was no good. So the lawyer did what lawyers are trained to do -- he sued.

After some wrangling, the consumer fraud issues were eventually dismissed and the only remaining issue was whether Southwest breached its contract by refusing to honor the drink coupons on different flights.

While a Southwest spokesperson maintains that the airline could have won had the lawsuit been litigated, the airline decided to settle the lawsuit. Apparently, a potential $58 million penalty was less expensive (or less troublesome) than engaging in a courtroom battle against their passengers.

Class members can recover their $5 drink coupons by filling out a claim form and attesting to the number of vouchers that they held. You may be able to make your claim even if you lost your original vouchers.

If you have questions regarding this class action or any other consumer issue, you may want to contact a consumer rights attorney. An attorney can help review your claim and options for relief.

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