Eid v. Alaska Airlines

621 F.3d 858 (2010)

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Eid v. Alaska Airlines

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
621 F.3d 858 (2010)

Facts

A group of Egyptian businessmen and their families (the passengers) (plaintiffs) flew on an Alaska Airlines (defendant) flight destined for Las Vegas, where the passengers had scheduled business meetings. According to a witness, the Alaska Airlines flight attendants mistreated the passengers, including by speaking to them in loud voices and hectoring them for minor infractions. When a group member informed a flight attendant, Robin Duus, that a disturbance form she had given them to fill out was supposed to be filled out by the flight crew, Duus began yelling and pacing the area where the passengers were sitting. According to a witness, none of the passengers were disrespectful, and there were no signs of misconduct on the part of the passengers. After one of the passengers complained about Duus’s conduct, Duus called the cockpit and informed the pilot that she had lost control of the group of passengers. The pilot immediately began to descend and diverted the plane to Reno, where law-enforcement personnel interviewed the flight crew. Despite protestations from the flight crew, law enforcement cleared the passengers to continue to their destination and helped to arrange a booking for the passengers on another airline. Following the flight, Alaska Airlines reported the passengers to the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Because of this report, the FBI detained some of the passengers in Las Vegas, causing them to arrive two hours late for their scheduled meeting. The deal they hoped to arrange with business partners in Las Vegas was never consummated. The passengers sued Alaska Airlines for damages due to the delay. Alaska Airlines filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Alaska Airlines was immune from liability under the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft (the Tokyo Convention). The district court granted the motion for summary judgment. The passengers appealed. Alaska Airlines argued that the proper standard under the Tokyo Convention for adjudicating whether an airline is immune from liability for a pilot’s decision to disembark a passenger is whether the pilot’s action was arbitrary and capricious.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kozinski, C.J.)

Dissent (Otero, J.)

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