Saturday, 2:15 PM
Logan skycaps win $325,000 in lawsuit over tips
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff
A federal jury today ordered American Airlines to reimburse nine skycaps at Logan International Airport more than $325,000 for tips they lost when the airline began charging passengers a $2-per-bag fee for curbside check-in service in late 2005.
In what a lawyer for the plaintiffs called the first legal challenge to baggage fees imposed by several airlines in recent years, the jury in US District Court in Boston concluded that American Airlines violated the state's tips law by keeping the $2 fees and by making it harder for the plaintiffs -- who rely heavily on gratuities -- to make a living.
"We're very pleased that the jury saw what American Airlines is doing here, which is digging into the pockets of some of its lowest-paid workers to boost its own profits,'" said Shannon Liss-Riordan, who represented the skycaps.
Skycap Tony Pasuy testified on the first day of the trial that since the fee went into effect in September 2005, his daily tips plunged from about $200 to about $70 or $80 because many customers mistakenly thought he kept the $2 and were reluctant to tip on top of it.
``This is really the right thing to do,'' said Don DiFiore, a skycap who is to be paid $41,886 by the airline. "The skycaps work for tips, and these guys came directly at our tips.''
Amy Mariani, a lawyer for the airline, declined to comment, referring questions to the carrier's corporate headquarters. The carrier said in court papers that it imposed the fee at Logan and other airports after losing $821 million in business in 2004. American Airlines contended that declining air travel after Sept. 11 may have caused tips to fall.
The jury ordered the airlines to pay the skycaps exactly what each one claimed to have lost in tips since the fee went into effect, depending on how many bags they handled. The amounts ranged from $64,138 to $3,066.
Before the trial, US District Judge William G. Young declined a request by Liss-Riordan to certify the suit as a class action on behalf of all 20 to 30 American Airlines skycaps at Logan. Liss-Riordan said she may ask the judge to reconsider that decision or appeal to the Court of Appeals to the First Circuit.
She said she is also working with out-of-state lawyers on a similar class-action lawsuit on behalf of skycaps who work for US Airways.
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