A Ridgewood attorney is taking one of the world's largest airlines to court after being denied an alcoholic beverage and in-flight entertainment on a ten-hour excursion from Hawaii to Newark.
Michael W. Rosen says Continental Airlines violates consumer rights with its "no-cash in cabin" rule, forcing customers to use credit or debit cards should they purchase items like headsets or alcoholic beverages.
"It's a consumer rights issue," his attorney, Nathan Kittner, told Patch Wednesday morning. "Can they [the airline] actually tell someone who has legal tender in the United States that offered to pay in exact change for a service, 'We're not giving it to you?'"
A state Superior Court judge will rule Friday whether the case, originally filed in the fall of 2010 and met with motions of dismissal by Continental, will proceed further. Rosen is seeking undisclosed compensatory damages, punitive damages and damages for mental anguish and emotional distress.
Rosen, whose law office is on South Pleasant Street, flew from Newark to eventually go to Hawaii on vacation in January in 2010. When he boarded at Newark he was told the headset would be compatible on any flight, Kittner said. But on his non-stop from Hawaii to Newark, his headset was not compatible and an employee told him he'd need a new one. But with his credit cards checked in his luggage, Rosen was unable to do so although he had exact change. He also claims he was denied a drink on the flight, again for a lack of plastic.
"Suppose someone doesn't have a credit card," Kittner said. "That means they don't have access to the same services as someone who has a credit card."
At a very basic level, they [the airline] made the rules–they say 'we're not required to accept cash and if we're not required to and we're not going to.' In a way, the passenger once on the plane, doesn't have a choice. It's a captive audience."
Representatives of Continental did not immediately offer comment on the case when questioned by Patch but a report on Northjersey.com states that in filings, Continental claims its no-cash-in-cabin policy is within federal guidelines.
Kittner noted the airline accepts cash in most capacities but not for in-flight services, which he speculates is for convenience's sake.
"It doesn't seem to be enough of an argument to say, 'It would be really difficult to do correctly so we're not going to do it at all.' That's the airline's problem, that shouldn't be the consumer's problem."
Although Kittner hasn't received any phone calls from others who may have found themselves in the upright position, he says there's a possibility of a future class action lawsuit.