How to Sue American Airlines

April 5, 2021
How to Sue American Airlines
People Clerk helps you with your small claims court lawsuit.

Do you have a dispute with American Airlines over damaged luggage, a flight refund, or an overbooked flight? You have several options, including suing American Airlines in small claims court.

In this article, learn about:

  • Common types of small claims lawsuits against airlines.
  • What to do before suing American Airlines in small claims court.
  • How much does it cost to sue American Airlines in small claims?
  • How much can you sue American Airlines for in small claims?
  • How to file a small claims lawsuit against American Airlines.
  • Fun fact, lawyers are not allowed at the initial small claims hearing! This is to even the playing field so that each party has an equal chance of obtaining justice.

Common types of small claims lawsuits against airlines

We often receive the question, can I sue an airline in small claims? The answer is yes as long as the dispute is for $10,000 or less (more on this below).

Here are some examples of small claims lawsuits against airlines:

  • the airline oversold the flight.
  • the airline lost your luggage
  • the airline delayed your luggage
  • the airline damaged your luggage
  • the flight was delayed on the tarmac
  • obtaining a flight refund
  • the airline's ticketing practices
  • concerns with family seating
  • problem with the airline's frequent flyer program

You can learn more about complaints against airlines here.

What to do before suing American Airlines in small claims court

Contact American Airlines's Customer Service

Call American Airlines's customer service number 1-800-433-7300 and have them troubleshoot your problem.

Contact American Airlines on Twitter

Many companies respond to Twitter complaints extremely fast. Here is American Airlines's Twitter handle: @AmericanAir

Consider filing a complaint against American Airlines with the U.S. Department of Transportation

Here are the steps:

  1. Click here to go to the DOT Complaint Form.
  2. You will need the following information handy: Your information (name, address, contact information), Airline Name, Flight Date, Flight Itinerary, and a description of the problem, incident, complaint (3,000 characters allowed)
  3. Make sure to click "yes" for the question "would you like a copy of this submission sent to your email?"

We wrote a whole article on how to file a complaint against an Airline! 

Consider filing a complaint with the BBB against American Airlines

The Better Business Bureau may be able to help you with your complaint against American Airlines. Here is how you can file a BBB complaint against American Airlines.

Make sure to also review complaints other customers have filed against American Airlines with the BBB (review American Airlines's BBB complaints here). This will help you learn whether American Airlines responds to BBB complaints.

Send a Demand Letter

A demand letter is a letter that outlines a set of requests. For example, you could request a refund and explain why you are requesting a refund.  

If you eventually decide to sue in California small claims court, you are required to first request your money or property back before you can file the lawsuit. While you can request your money or property back orally, it is recommended you do so in writing in the form of a demand letter.

What to include in the demand letter?

Unsure of what to include in your demand letter to American Airlines:

  • How much money you are owed.
  • Why you are owed money.
  • Your contact information.
  • Where to send payment.
  • Give them a few days to respond (usually about 7 to 14 days).
  • State that if they don't respond, you intend to sue.

Where to mail the demand letter to?

American Airlines, Inc.

1 Skyview Drive, MD8B503

Forth Worth, Texas 76155

You can also mail a copy of the letter to American Airline's agent in California:

CT Corporation System

818 West Seventh Street

Suite 930

Los Angeles, CA 90017

Make sure to always verify this information by reviewing the California Secretary of State's website as this information may change. Learn how here.

If American Airlines ignores your demand letter, what is the next step? You may be able to sue American Airlines in a small claims court. Make sure to review any contracts you have received from American Airlines. While there may be a forced arbitration clause, many times there is an exception for small claims lawsuits.

How much does it cost to sue American Airlines in small claims?

So how much are you going to spend by suing American Airlines in small claims court?

Court Filing Fees

The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in California depends on how much you are suing American Airlines for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If you cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees.  

Serving Costs

Once the lawsuit is filed, you have to notify American Airlines that you have sued them. This is called "serving." Serving Costs can range from $0-$75.

More on who to serve on behalf of American Airlines below. If you win, you can request that American Airlines pay for your court fees and serving costs.

How much can you sue American Airlines for in small claims?

In California, you can sue American Airlines for a maximum of $10,000 if you are an individual. If you are a business suing American Airlines, you can sue for a maximum of $5,000. Note, if you are a sole proprietor, you count as an individual.

By suing in small claims you are agreeing to waive any amount over the maximum amount you can sue for, even if you are owed more. For example, if American Airlines owes you $12,000, and you decide to sue in small claims, you are waiving suing for an additional $2,000. Meaning that you will win a maximum of $10,000.

While you may be missing out on the full amount you are owed, there are practical benefits to suing in small claims instead of suing in "regular court."

Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Court filing fees are cheaper in small claims than in other courts.
  2. The process is faster in small claims than in other courts as your hearing will usually be scheduled 30-70 days after you file the lawsuit.
  3. Lawyers are generally not allowed in small claims which helps keep the costs of suing low.  

How to file a small claims lawsuit against American Airlines

Step 1: Complete "Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court" (Form SC-100)

American Airlines, Inc.

1 Skyview Drive, MD8B503

Forth Worth, Texas 76155

American Airlines's agent for service of process in California:

CT Corporation System

818 West Seventh Street

Suite 930

Los Angeles, CA 90017

Make sure to always verify this information by reviewing the California Secretary of State's website as this information may change. Learn how here.

Step 2: File "Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court"

Each California Small Claims Court has a different procedure for filing. You have to check with your local small claims court whether they allow filing in-person, by mail, online, or by fax. Or we can file your case for you!

Step 3: Serve the lawsuit on American Airlines's agent

Remember, you will be serving American Airlines's "agent for service of process" as listed on the California Secretary of State's website. Learn more here.

Agent for Service of Process:

CT Corporation System

818 West Seventh Street

Suite 930

Los Angeles, CA 90017

Make sure to always verify this information by reviewing the California Secretary of State's website as this information may change. Learn how here.

What is a small claims court hearing like?

Small claims hearings in California small claims are informal and most hearings last around 15 minutes. While many disputes settle before the hearing, here is what to expect if your lawsuit does not settle.

Who will represent American Airlines at the hearing?

  • The easiest way to answer this question is that a lawyer will not be representing American Airlines since lawyers cannot represent parties at the initial small claims hearing. They will have a non-attorney representative.

The hearing:

  • Right before the hearing, the judge will ask you and American Airlines's representative to show each other the evidence that you will later show the judge.
  • The judge will ask you why you are suing.
  • The judge will ask American Airlines's representative to tell them their side of the story.
  • The hearing will last around 15 minutes.
  • The judge will ask you to show them the evidence you brought. Sometimes the judge will keep the evidence. Other times, you will get the evidence right back.
  • Very rarely a judge will tell you whether you won or lost at the hearing. Instead, the judge will tell you that their decision will be mailed to you (usually takes a few weeks to two months or so).
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