SAINT LOUIS PARK, Minn. - A well-known Minnesota lecturer and author was present for oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg, 52, of Saint Louis Park is the former Dean of the Torah Academy.
Ginsberg became embroiled in a five year long dispute with Northwest Airlines and its successor, Delta Airlines, over frequent flier miles. In 2008, Northwest abruptly terminated Ginsberg's account with its Worldperks program. Flying dozens of times each year, Ginsberg had achieved "elite" status with the program.
"All I wanted was my miles," Ginsberg said Wednesday. "I wanted them to return what they took and for some reason that I still do not know today, they just did not respond and they kept on refusing. When I told them I am going to have to pursue legal action, it was, you know, 'go for it'."
Ginsberg did file suit and was winning through the appeals process. Delta took the case to the nation's highest court arguing that federal de-regulation laws prohibited lawsuits like Ginsberg's from being filed against an airline.
Ginsberg admitted that he was prone to complain about perceived problems on flights and that he received thousands of frequent flier miles as compensation. He said that might have been a liability for Northwest as they were in final negotiations for the merger with Delta.
Ginsberg said he sent a letter to the airline. "If you think I complain too much, let us have a discussion about this. You may want to tell me do not do this again in the future or something like that, but do not, out of the blue, without any warning, without any notice, do that! (terminate his status)"
"The question that was before the Supreme Court is whether someone can even bring this type of claim," said Adina Rosenbaum, Ginsberg's attorney through the group Public Citizen. "(It is) a claim that a contract was violated because it breached the covenant of good faith in the contract. It does not apply just to frequent flier miles. It is a question of whether airlines in general are freed from having to perform their contracts in good faith. It could apply to any contract that the airline enters."
Ginsberg finds the airline's actions unjustified. "I signed up for what your program was and I used it as you told me to and that should be honored," said Ginsberg.
As for his case evolving in a class action and reaching the nation's highest court, Ginsberg said he was shocked. "A lot of people are questioning why is our highest court dealing with such an issue? Number one, I did not bring it to the Supreme Court. It was the airline who did. Number two, I think the Supreme Court felt that this is an issue that affects so many people and this is one of the criteria used by the Supreme Court determining which cases they are going to accept."
KARE 11 News contacted Delta representatives about the lawsuit, but the airline declined to comment saying it is "pending litigation."
Ginsberg's lawsuit mentions a damage figure of $5 million, but he said that was only a preliminary estimate. "That was the initial assumption based on the low end of what the number of people that were going to be involved in the class action suit," said Ginsberg.
The Rabbi said he still flies Delta from time to time, but now his favorite airline is Minnesota-based Sun Country. "I fly them religiously," commented Ginsberg.
A ruling in the case is expected from the high court by June.