A federal judge has ordered Delta Air Lines Inc. to pay $2.7 million — on top of $4.8 million in previous penalties — for failing to produce information in a lawsuit against the carrier over baggage fees.
The judge complained that arguments over production of evidence such as emails have consumed more time than the merits of the lawsuit, which was filed in 2009. In his order this week, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten in Atlanta said that "Delta's ineptitude and missteps" were to blame for most of the delays.
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Separately, the judge approved class-action status for the lawsuit.
A group of passengers charge that Delta and AirTran Airways conspired in 2008 to impose baggage fees. AirTran executives said that they could enact fees but wanted to see what Delta did — Delta was AirTran's main competitor in Atlanta. Two weeks later, Delta announced a fee on each passenger's first checked bag, and AirTran quickly did the same.
The judge ordered Delta to pay plaintiffs' lawyers $2.7 million for time and expenses trying to get Delta to produce documents and other evidence they requested. It was the fourth such request; the previous ones led the judge to order Delta to pay nearly $4.8 million to the other side.
Delta, the nation's third-biggest airline company, collected more than $860 million in checked-bag fees last year. AirTran was sold to Southwest Airlines Co. in 2011 and ceased separate operations.