Couple gets $208,000 for Lost Airplane Seat

UPI

Oct. 6, 1981

CHICAGO -- A former Illinois Supreme Court justice said he wanted to teach Delta Air Lines a lesson on how to treat their passengers. And he did -- a $208,000 lesson.

A Cook County CIrcuit Court jury Monday night awarded the money to Thomas E. Kluczynski, 78, and his wife, Melanie, 61, as compensation for being bumped from a flight to Orlando, Fla., in February 1976.

The eight-women, four-man jury, after five hours of deliberation, assessed no damages against the travel agency that booked the flight, however.

'As a citizen, I wanted to be heard,' the retired justice said after the verdict was announced. 'I wanted to give them a lesson.'

Mrs. Kluczynski said she hoped the airlines would remember its lesson. 'The public will be respected when they come to the airport, and they'll know that confirmed, valid tickets mean what they think they mean.'

The hapless travelers were each awarded $100,000 in punitive damages and $4,000 in compensatory damages by the jury.

In closing arguments of the nearly two-week trial, the Kluczynskis' attorney, Phillip H. Corboy, said the judge and his wife filed suit to expose in open court the injustice of airline overbooking.

Kluczynski, who retired from the bench in 1980, acted as 'a Good Samaritan' in pressing the suit, Corboy told the jury.

In keeping with his 40 years of public service, the judge felt it was his duty to pursue the bumping case since he had the financial resources to do so, Corboy added.

Kluczynski and his wife, a Chicago Public Library board member, were to fly to Orlando on Feb. 19, 1976, but when they arrived at O'Hare International Airport shortly before departure time, they were told the flight had been overbooked and there were no seats for them.

Delta attorney Cornelius P. Callahan told the jury that the couple refused an offer from Delta of seats on a flight to Orlando two hours later, adding the Kluczynskis were less concerned about the general practice of bumping than they were with gaining special treatment.

Delta did not concede during the trial that the Kluczynskis were actually bumped, claiming the retired justice and his wife had no seats due to a reservations error.

But Callahan said experienced travelers were well aware that overbooking is a standard economical business practice for all airlines.

UPI Wire Service, 10-6-81