Howell v. Alaska Airlines, Inc

In Howell v. Alaska Airlines, Inc. (2000) 99 Wn. App. 646, the plaintiff filed suit on behalf of himself and a class of persons who purchased nonrefundable airline tickets from Alaska Airlines and were refused refunds when they were unable to travel as planned. The plaintiff alleged that the ticket contracts were void on the grounds of frustration of purpose, impossibility of performance, illusory promises, substantive and procedural unconscionability, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment. He also claimed that by refusing refunds, Alaska violated Washington's Consumer Protection Act. (994 P.2d at p. 902.) The court concluded that the plaintiff's claims were preempted by the ADA. It explained: "The contract between Alaska and each of the appellants authorized the airline to take the action now challenged--here, the refusal to refund the purchase price of the ticket. In their complaint, the appellants do not seek to enforce the contract according to its terms. Rather, they seek to have this action declared unlawful by application of state laws and policies external to the parties' agreement. In other words, the appellants are attempting to enlarge or enhance their agreements with Alaska based on the laws or policies of this state that are external to the agreements. Under the ADA, particularly as construed by the Supreme Court in Wolens, the appellants' claims are preempted." (994 P.2d at p. 905.)