United Airlines is facing a discrimination lawsuit for a promotion it ran offering discounts for 18-22 year olds.
United Airlines offered discount to 18-22 year olds
In September 2019, United Airlines introduced a 10% discount for travelers aged 18-22:
- This requires booking through United Airlines’ app, and requires being a MileagePlus member
- It’s valid for travel through December 31, 2020
- It only applies for flights within North America that originate in the US
United Airlines accused of age discrimination
The Chicago Tribune reports that a lawsuit has been filed against United Airlines regarding the promotion for 18-22 year olds, alleging age discrimination.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of California:
- It’s alleged that this violates California’s anti-discrimination laws
- The suit seeks class action status on behalf of customers who have been excluded from this promotion
- The suit seeks at least $5 million in damages
- The plaintiffs are a 23 year old and 67 year old from California
- United claims that the promotion was intended to make travel more available to younger people who are either in college or just starting their career
- The lawsuit claims that this policy goes against United’s mission statement of diversity and inclusion, calling it “mere virtue signaling” and “woke-worded”
In a statement, a United Airlines spokesperson said the following about the lawsuit:
“It is a shame that a few individuals take issue with an offer that is intended to make travel more accessible to more people. We believe this lawsuit is completely baseless and will defend ourselves vigorously.”
Is there any merit to this lawsuit?
I’m obviously no lawyer, so take what I say with a grain of salt here.
California does indeed have a law banning discrimination by businesses, which reads as follows (this has been expanded to include age through court cases):
“All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”
Based on doing some Googling, there was a court case a couple of years back where Tinder charged less for its premium services for those under 30. Tinder’s logic was that younger people weren’t willing to pay as much and needed a lower price to pull the trigger.
The court ended up ruling against Tinder, arguing that this was age discrimination.
I guess I’d also ask whether any businesses in California still offer senior discounts? I know some national chains offer discounts to seniors in “participating locations,” so I’d wonder if California locations are among those.
United Airlines is facing a lawsuit over offering a discount to those aged 18-22 who were MileagePlus members and booked through the United app. The argument is that this violates California’s anti-discrimination laws, which don’t allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of age (among other factors). I’ll be curious to see what comes of this case.
On the one hand, the plaintiffs may technically have a case, based on some past rulings. This does in fact seem to be discrimination based on age.
On the other hand, for whatever reason I just can’t bring myself to view this the same way as discrimination based on other factors. I don’t think I have any issues with discounts for children or seniors, for example, because I recognize it’s a way to drum up business.
Maybe I’m just looking at it wrong, but I just have a hard time viewing a youth discount the same as charging different amounts based on race, etc.
What do you make of this United Airlines age discrimination lawsuit? I’d be especially curious to hear from lawyers!