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OFF BEAT: Man sues airline over unredeemed drink vouchers


An Illinois man says that Houston-based Southwest Airlines Co. stiffed him for 45 in-flight cocktails after the airline changed how it would honor its vouchers for free alcoholic drinks.

In a suit filed Wednesday, Chicago area plaintiff Adam Levitt says that for years, he and other customers who chose to purchase flights through Southwest’s “Business Select” program were awarded drink coupons with no expiration date, in exchange for opting to pay a higher price for airfare.

Southwest changed its policy on Aug. 1, 2010, to say that passengers could only use the coupons on the day of travel printed on them, rendering Mr. Levitt’s collection of unredeemed drink vouchers worthless.

“In an industry where the competition is always knocking (or banging) on the door and where watching the bottom line is more important than ever, we owe it to our employees, customers and shareholders to find ways to operate smarter,” Mike Hafner, Southwest’s vp of cabin services, wrote in a company blog post.

The lawsuit, filed in Chicago federal court, seeks class action status for U.S. travelers with unredeemed drink vouchers and compensatory damages, as well as other remedies.

“Southwest decided that it would make more money—improve its ‘bottom line’—by choosing not to honor the coupons that consumers had already paid and bargained for,” said the complaint.

Southwest could not be reached for comment on the case.