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NADER v. ALLEGHENY AIRLINES

October 18, 1973

RALPH NADER and the CONNECTICUT CITIZEN ACTION GROUP, Plaintiffs
v.
ALLEGHENY AIRLINES, INC., Defendant


Richey, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

RICHEY, District Judge.

This case came on to be heard before the Court, sitting without a jury, and the Court, having considered the evidence introduced at the trial, the stipulations entered into by the parties, and upon consideration thereof including the arguments of counsel as well as the trial briefs, hereby makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

 Findings of Fact

 1. Plaintiff Ralph Nader is a citizen of the United States and resides in the District of Columbia.

 2. Plaintiff Connecticut Citizens Action Group (hereinafter CCAG), is a non-profit corporation, organized and existing under the laws of the District of Columbia and has its principal place of business in Hartford, Connecticut. It is a public interest advocate for environmental and consumer issues arising in the State of Connecticut.

 3. Defendant, Allegheny Airlines, Inc., is a corporation having a principal place of business at the Washington National Airport near Alexandria, Virginia. It is an air carrier and holds a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by the Civil Aeronautics Board and is regulated by the laws of the United States relating to such carriers and by the rules, regulations and orders promulgated by the CAB in accordance with the Federal Aviation Act of 1958.

 4. In the early spring of 1972, CCAG became involved in a controversy over proposed public utility rate increases in Connecticut. CCAG had planned to hold a rate-payers rally on April 28 to raise public support in the Hartford area for CCAG's efforts to oppose pending electric utility rate increases in particular and for the group's consumer rights activities in general. Mr. Nader, who assisted in the organization of CCAG in April 1971 was scheduled to appear in Storrs, Conn. on April 28, 1972. The director of CCAG ascertained that Mr. Nader would be available and willing to appear as the keynote speaker for the rally, which was then planned to be held over the luncheon hour in downtown Hartford and adequately in advance of Mr. Nader's later appearance that day at Storrs.

 5. On Tuesday, April 25, 1972 Plaintiff Nader made a confirmed reservation for Allegheny Flight 864, scheduled to depart Washington National Airport at 10:15 a.m. on April 28, 1972 with arrival at Hartford, Connecticut's Bradley International Airport at 11:15 a.m.

 6. In reliance upon Mr. Nader's confirmed reservation on Allegheny's Flight 864 on April 28, 1972, CCAG's representatives began on Wednesday, April 26, 1972 to distribute flyers for the 12:15 p.m. rally on April 28, 1972. CCAG had also planned to use the noontime rally to take advantage of Mr. Nader's great popularity and influence in the State of Connecticut to generate "spill over" contributions in CCAG's 1972 fund drive. Also based on Mr. Nader's commitment the CCAG was able to enlist the appearance of the Mayor of Hartford and President of the City Council at the rally to endorse CCAG's efforts to be allowed to intervene as full parties in the State's utility rate proceedings. As a result of these efforts at least 1,000 people arrived for the rally just before the scheduled stated time.

 7. Plaintiff Nader's ticket was picked up from a travel agent in downtown Washington, D.C. on the morning of April 28, 1972. On the same morning he arrived at approximately 10:05 a.m. at the main terminal building of Washington National Airport. He was advised to proceed to Gate 17 on the lower level. There, upon presentation of his confirmed reservation and ticket he was denied boarding on Flight 864 because it had been oversold by the Defendant Allegheny Airlines, Inc.

 8. The Plaintiff Nader then inquired of Allegheny Agent at Gate 17, John McDonald, as to whether there were any stand-bys already on board the plane or whether there were any passengers who would volunteer to give him his seat. Mr. McDonald refused to make either inquiry.

 9. The Plaintiff Nader informed Mr. McDonald at the departure gate of the likely harm that would occur to him and Plaintiff CCAG if the Defendant refused to honor his confirmed reservation, but all Mr. McDonald did was to offer the Plaintiff Nader another flight to Hartford via Philadelphia on a fifteen-passenger plane which was scheduled to arrive in Hartford at 12:10 p.m., some 55 minutes after the scheduled arrival of Flight 864 in Hartford on April 28, 1972. As a result of Allegheny's conduct, Mr. Nader incurred $7.00 in long distance telephone expenses and $3.00 in the additional cost of a ticket to Boston. (From Boston Mr. Nader travelled by car to Storrs.)

 10. CCAG's director informed the crowd at the rally that Mr. Nader could not appear as scheduled. The crowd of 1,000 dwindled to about 200 persons who remained to hear the Mayor, the Council President and CCAG's Director, Mr. Moffett, speak. CCAG lost the contributions expected to be generated both at the rally and by canvassing and direct mail solicitations of persons whose names were to be obtained at the rally or as a result thereof. Furthermore, CCAG suffered extreme and very real embarrassment, loss of professional esteem and prestige throughout the State of Connecticut as a result of Mr. Nader's failure to appear as advertised. CCAG also incurred $50 to send a car to Boston to pick up Mr. Nader and transport him to Storrs.

 11. Allegheny Airlines has a practice of systematically over-booking its flights by accepting more confirmed reservations and selling more tickets for a flight than the number of seats ...


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