American Airlines Fined For Not Catering Kosher Meals

American Airlines Fined For Not Catering Kosher Meals

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A Brazilian court is ordering American Airlines to pay ~$2,800 for not catering special meals for two travelers.

American Airlines’ costly special meal mishap

Judge José Marcos Marrone of the Court of Justice of São Paulo recently oversaw two cases involving American Airlines forgetting to cater kosher meals on flights:

  • In the first case, a passenger flew from New York to São Paulo and had ordered a kosher meal in advance, but it wasn’t loaded, causing the man to fast for the 10 hour flight
  • In the second case, a passenger took two flights on American Airlines (from Madrid to Philadelphia and Chicago to London), and in both cases the kosher meals weren’t loaded

In the first case the judge awarded 6,000BRL (~1,061USD) to the plaintiff, and in the second case the judge awarded 10,000BRL (~1,768USD) to the plaintiff, with 5,000BRL for each occurrence, since they happened back-to-back.

The damage awarded was for “danos morais,” which literally translates to “moral damages,” or more accurately, emotional suffering. This was because all of the passengers seated around the plaintiffs could eat, while they couldn’t.

The concept of proving that the meals weren’t loaded also seemed to be a central point of the cases. The judge decided that the plaintiffs couldn’t be responsible for proving that they weren’t serve food, but rather it was the responsibility of the airline to provide that the food was served, and the airline wasn’t able to do that.

American not catering special meals is proving costly

What makes these court cases interesting

There are a few things I find interesting about this case. First of all, someone with more legal expertise than me can chime in on this, but how exactly were both of these cases heard in a Brazilian court? I know that Brazil’s courts can sometimes be very pro-consumer, and I get how a case could be heard for a flight to Brazil, but what about flights between Europe and the United States? Is this simply because American does business in Brazil as well, or what?

Next, this raises the question of where exactly the line should be drawn with what you’re paying for with your ticket, and what you’re not paying for:

  • In the contract of carriage, airlines guarantee very little, aside from getting you from one point to another with an unknown timeline (and barely even that — they can also just refund you)
  • Where is the line drawn where an airline should be on the hook for falling short? Passengers aren’t typically due anything if a flight is delayed by hours, if a flight is catered incorrectly, if personal televisions don’t work, if crews are rude, etc.
  • Looking at American Airlines’ special meals page, it does seem that the airline should add some language about not being able to guarantee that correct meals will always be loaded, because there’s currently no such caveat, at least as far as I can tell

Lastly, I think this is an important reminder — if you have special restrictions, I don’t ever recommend relying on the airline fully, because airlines don’t always get things right. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, require kosher food, or whatever else, bring at least some food with you that can keep you satisfied in the event that things don’t go as planned.

Even though I don’t really have any special requirements, I always travel with some protein bars or other snacks, which worst case scenario would keep me happy in the event of a major delay, a flight being catered incorrectly, etc.

A kosher meal on American Airlines

Bottom line

A Brazil court has ordered American Airlines to pay over $2,800 to two individuals who flew with the airline, but the kosher meals they requested weren’t loaded. The judge decided that the airline needed to be held responsible for the emotional suffering that passengers dealt with for not being able to eat.

Brazil seems to have a unique way of handling cases like this, which is much more consumer friendly than in most of the rest of the world.

What do you make of this Brazilian court case against American Airlines?

(Tip of the hat to Alon)

Conversations (42)
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  1. Jack Guest

    This is outrageous. When did it become someone else’s problem to feed us if you can’t eat what’s served on the plane bring your own food.

  2. Suhas Guest

    Again i repeat myself but both the writers and commentators are providing AA a ready excuse to not do things properly. I am even more sure that AA has no incentive to improve. Seems the writer is not actively providing wxcuses for bad AA behaviour

  3. CMM Guest

    I am a fussy and picky eater. Usually order the low calorie or fat meal with the different airlines I fly with especially when flying economy. . I never rely on getting the special meals I order or even if I will eat it. Usually it’s crap in coach class. . In business class, it’s different. I though always take a protein bar or two to keep my stomach happy just in case. These court cases seem ridiculous to me and overkill.

  4. Samuel erdan Guest

    I had the same thing happen to me recently from jfk-lax on American Airlines. Any attorney that wants to sue them for me reach out to me.

  5. James Saunders Guest

    Brazil does not like AA some years ago a member of flight crew made an obscene hand sign at an immigration office
    Caused whole flight crew to be denied entry to GIG.
    Brasil has special laws for those over 60’and their rights. Maybe these people were over 60 too

  6. Dave Guest

    It's ridiculous. I've requested vegetarian or pescatarian on Fridays in Lent before and not gotten them - "sorry, we regularly have a vegetarian option so we don't special cater those, and we have run out of them...".

    Do I get to sue for pain and suffering?

    When your religion requires special dietary restrictions, it is on you, as the adherent, to make sure you have options.

  7. Mike Guest

    What no one is mentioning is that AA does not handle the catering of any food or beverage on its planes. So why wasn't the catering company sued? AA has no control over what items make it on the plane. Most of the time when food was offered in 1st class, the meals AA said were going to be offered never made it on the plane. While it is nice that AA offers food on...

    What no one is mentioning is that AA does not handle the catering of any food or beverage on its planes. So why wasn't the catering company sued? AA has no control over what items make it on the plane. Most of the time when food was offered in 1st class, the meals AA said were going to be offered never made it on the plane. While it is nice that AA offers food on their planes, no one especially with a special diet should be depending on the airline for food. It is not the airline's responsibility to keep you from being hungry.

    1. wpcoe Member

      AA voluntarily contracts out to that caterer its (AA's) responsibility to provide the meals. AA chooses not to do it themselves, but the "obligation" (that may be debatable?) to provide it is still AA's.

      If an airline contracts out it's customer service agents to a third party at an airport and one of those agents decides to (randomly? maliciously?) cancel your reservation. Do you hold the airline accountable or the third party employer?

  8. Andy Diamond

    Brazil has particularly strong consumer protection laws, also about other aspects, such as refunds. Airlines are aware of that.

  9. Fábio Guest

    I’m not really sure, but it is likely that the passenger on the European flights were a Brazilian, and the tickets were issued by AA in Brazil, that’s why his/her case was heard in Brazil.

  10. iamhere Guest

    Agree with many of the other comments.
    1. Eventually it will cause many airlines to pull out of Brazil
    2. It would be interesting to know the nationality of the passenger in the second case. If Brazilian it may make sense, but if not I wonder how the Brazilian court could justify hearing the case.

  11. AYL Guest

    I expect chopsticks with my meal otherwise expect to get sued

    1. iamhere Guest

      Haha. Very true. It will get to that point in Brazil soon enough.

  12. glenn t Diamond

    If one came on board for a 10 hour flight empty-handed, relying 100% on the airline to provide a special meal, and it didn't happen, you could at least find some elements in alternatives that might be offered, surely?
    I mean, what's the worst that could happen to you? Would you be violently ill, be smite by a bolt of lightning or some such? Of course not. There are occasions beyond your control where...

    If one came on board for a 10 hour flight empty-handed, relying 100% on the airline to provide a special meal, and it didn't happen, you could at least find some elements in alternatives that might be offered, surely?
    I mean, what's the worst that could happen to you? Would you be violently ill, be smite by a bolt of lightning or some such? Of course not. There are occasions beyond your control where commonsense is allowed to prevail, where you can temporarily set aside your learned (sometimes illogical) beliefs.

  13. Matt Guest

    The passengers should be paying AA for the privilege not having to eat the disgusting crap AA passes off as "food" on its flights.

  14. Concernedreader Guest

    A significant portion of the writer’s website is staked on reviews of food in premium cabins, with the bits and bobs and beverages and sometimes frivolous touches. It’s disingenuous for him to claim that those with dietary restrictions ought to carry snacks or meals with them, when, numerous posts on this blog voice criticism at even a small missing component from meal service or the brand of alcohol provided. The writer has devoted posts to...

    A significant portion of the writer’s website is staked on reviews of food in premium cabins, with the bits and bobs and beverages and sometimes frivolous touches. It’s disingenuous for him to claim that those with dietary restrictions ought to carry snacks or meals with them, when, numerous posts on this blog voice criticism at even a small missing component from meal service or the brand of alcohol provided. The writer has devoted posts to problems far more frivolous than basic sustenance, and I cannot believe that he’d have enjoyed his packed snacks with contentment on a long haul flight in the event he was denied a meal. Airlines operating long haul routes cannot claim to be global companies whilst neglecting passengers with dietary restrictions. Just as a flight wouldn’t take off without fuel or safety equipment, so should it not depart without meals for every passenger.

    1. Shawn Guest

      The writer is Ben Schlapigg and while you might be somewhat correct in your bizarre critique, I have yet to recall when Ben sues the airline in a Brazilian court.

      Last time I checked, most people could use some fasting for 10 hours. Sustenance….lol!!

  15. uldguy Diamond

    Apparently the kosher caterer is not yet set up to make AA’s famous turkey pastrami sandwich.

    Hopefully they will be soon, as everyone deserves to be served one of those!

  16. Evan Guest

    I may be the only one, but I am actually okay with the decision. It's not about the meal, but rather a bigger issue. This whole idea that you can promote something, whether it be special meals or something else, and then say "oops" when it isn't provided is unacceptable. It's like these stupid seat charges. You can actually pay an additional fee for an aisle seat, but still not get it for "operational reasons"...

    I may be the only one, but I am actually okay with the decision. It's not about the meal, but rather a bigger issue. This whole idea that you can promote something, whether it be special meals or something else, and then say "oops" when it isn't provided is unacceptable. It's like these stupid seat charges. You can actually pay an additional fee for an aisle seat, but still not get it for "operational reasons" and then have to fight for a refund.

    My point is, if an airline offers/advertises something and the passenger purchases the appropriate ticket, then they're entitled to it. I know what airline CoCs say, but this BS of offering something and disclaiming any responsibility to actually provide it really needs to stop.

  17. Icarus Guest

    People might be surprised that Brazil is one of the most litigious countries. However the fine is not proportional and clearly the travellers take advantage of it. Emotional damage is BS. Meals are not part of the contract. Am sure the crew might have offered something like fruit. Customers like that should then be placed on a black list.

  18. CeeJay Guest

    Eventually major US airlines will pull out of Brazil, a lot of the laws there are not friendly to the airlines and borderline predatory to them. No way they can make money.

    1. kimshep Guest

      "No way they can make money."

      ... and yet, for many years South America has been been one of AA's most profitable continents - and Brasil has been at the core of that strategy. Try reading their annual reports rather than making wild unsubstantiated claims.

  19. Steve Diamond

    Only a matter of time before no meals are served because too many people claim they have to eat a certain diet. At some point its easier to have no meals than 10 differnt ones because one person is complaining.

    1. anon Guest

      U gonna have a different problem when everyone bringing their fish and fried chicken on broad

  20. Randy Guest

    I'm Jewish and keep kosher. It is my responsibility to make sure I have food that I can eat, not someone else's. What do you do if the choices start out as fish and chicken and they run out of chicken. You don't like fish. That's why you have a carry on bag to ensure that you have something to get you through the flight. It is ridiculous that taxpayer dollars were wasted on a lawsuit over food.

    1. flying100 Member

      I'm Jewish and I always take with some food as it really is required as a Jew to take with food wherever you go (tzeida laderech), but what you say regarding taxpayers money is wrong, in such a world when you have lawsuits on any silly thing that went wrong for you, you are allowed to have a lawsuit on such a thing that because of the neglection from AA you had to fast for...

      I'm Jewish and I always take with some food as it really is required as a Jew to take with food wherever you go (tzeida laderech), but what you say regarding taxpayers money is wrong, in such a world when you have lawsuits on any silly thing that went wrong for you, you are allowed to have a lawsuit on such a thing that because of the neglection from AA you had to fast for so long.
      What I would do? I probably wouldn't go to court, but it would be bad to sit on a long flight without any food, as I wouldn't even think of eating even a different hechsher.
      But I think any airline should in such a situation give some compensation even without going to court, or at least some miles.

  21. Justin Guest

    All tickets were sold in Brasil and under Brasil law kosher meals must be available on any flight that exceeds a certain flight time.

  22. John Guest

    I expect AA has some good points on appeal, if they (or their insurer) decides to spend the money on an appeal. Moral damages are common in civil law jurisdictions, but this was really a breach of contract case not a personal injury or tort case. Trial courts in Brazil can be as results-oriented and unpredictable, however, as their counterparts in the US.

  23. Ethan Guest

    I'm a carnivore and don't eat plants. They don't offer that kind of meal. I don't throw a fit for it.

    1. Kosher Mike Guest

      Exactly. They don’t offer it and hence you don’t have an expectation of getting it.
      If someone picked AA over a Low cost airline because they had a reasonable expectation of food, and they can demonstrate that the food was unavailable due to negligence (I can only assume they were able to demonstrate that), they are entitled to seek compensation.

  24. david Guest

    So following the law of unintended consequences, should AA just eliminate offering of all special meals? That's what I would do, it's not worth the hassle

  25. Jay Guest

    One more thing with AA , based on my personal experience, IF EVIP is applied , it overwrites the selected meal preference. We have to make sure to go back and relax select the preferred meal option.

    1. Jay Guest

      Oops auto correction “reselect”

  26. Yuri Guest

    I just read the cases. An interesting detail that escaped about the first one is that the passenger who didn't received his kosher meal was a child, father being the one who procedure with legal action. In the second case, no mention of the flights having been issued by the Brazilian office, in which case the courts may have interpreted and sympathized with the Brazilian passenger and followed up with the process, as the AA is registered in the country.

  27. Anthony I Guest

    why is it such a crime not to serve kosher, but no issues if they don't cater to other religious restrictions- Hindu/Muslim??

    1. henare Diamond

      Nobody said that not serving meals based on other faith traditions wasn't problematic.

  28. Tim Dunn Diamond

    not sure about why a Brazilian court could rule on service levels for a non-Brazil flight but it might be because the ticket was sold in Brazil.

  29. Motion to Dismiss Guest

    Lawyer here. I'm also baffled as to how a Brazilian court has jurisdiction in the second case, unless the passenger was Brazilian--do we know that?

  30. Ira N. Guest

    I only eat kosher and I always make sure to travel with sufficient food for my travels - including possible delays.
    There are many factors that can cause the special meal to not be loaded (as recently happened to me on a Delta code share on KLM this past summer from JNB-YUL where Delta did not let KLM know.)
    I think this is a frivolous claim and should not have made it to the courts.

    1. Jon Guest

      different legal system means different things are "frivolous"

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Dave Guest

It's ridiculous. I've requested vegetarian or pescatarian on Fridays in Lent before and not gotten them - "sorry, we regularly have a vegetarian option so we don't special cater those, and we have run out of them...". Do I get to sue for pain and suffering? When your religion requires special dietary restrictions, it is on you, as the adherent, to make sure you have options.

2
henare Diamond

Nobody said that not serving meals based on other faith traditions wasn't problematic.

2
Randy Guest

I'm Jewish and keep kosher. It is my responsibility to make sure I have food that I can eat, not someone else's. What do you do if the choices start out as fish and chicken and they run out of chicken. You don't like fish. That's why you have a carry on bag to ensure that you have something to get you through the flight. It is ridiculous that taxpayer dollars were wasted on a lawsuit over food.

2
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