Some air travelers may be due rebates


In this summer of airfare battles, one of the rebates might be coming from the courts.

Lawyers representing plaintiffs in a price-fixing case that reached settlement began to mail out claim forms two weeks ago to 10 million travelers who might be entitled to vouchers for airfares.

Since then, the plaintiffs' law firm in Atlanta has been swamped with inquiries from confused consumers wanting to know more.

"It's all a bit overwhelming," says Gina Gatlin, a legal assistant in the Atlanta-based law firm Carr Tabb & Pope. The law practice is one of the lead firms representing plaintiffs in the successful class-action suit brought against several airlines.

The mailing of claim forms is part of a $458 million settlement filed against major U.S. airlines for allegedly fixing prices on airline tickets, said W. Pitts Carr, the "liaison counsel" for five law firms involved in the case. None of the defendants admitted wrongdoing, preferring instead an out-of-court settlement.

Mr. Carr said the mailing of 10 million forms was based on airline computer records of passengers who bought tickets from Jan. 1, 1988, through June 30, 1992, on American, Continental, Delta, Midway, Northwest, Pan Am, TWA, United and USAir, which were named as defendants in the suit. Only credit card purchasers were identified in this computer search, he said.

People who receive the forms in the mail could be entitled to at least $100 in airline vouchers if they fill out claim forms and return them, Mr. Carr said. And those who traveled extensively on the airlines could receive vouchers worth still more, although the full amount depends on the number of people who file claims, he said.

Mr. Carr said the mailing was not complete but noted that a claim for part of the settlement can staked without a form. Forms that consumers seek on their own are equally valid in making a claim, he said.

Anyone interested in obtaining a claim forms should write to Airlines Antitrust Litigation, P.O. Box 267, Pennsauken, N.J. 08110-0267.

Coupons designed to help obtain the claim forms are being published as part of legal advertisements running in major newspapers nationwide. Claim forms must be postmarked by Feb. 15, 1993.

If court approval is granted, the mailing of discount certificates would begin in the middle of next year, Ms. Gatlin said.

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