United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION & ORDER
VALERIE CAPRONI United States District Judge.
Sharon Charles Cooper (“Plaintiff”) sued
Defendant United Airlines, Inc. (“United”) for
damages arising from her arrest at London Heathrow Airport
(“Heathrow”). The facts of this case start with
what should have been a trip of a lifetime-an African
safari-and end with an arrest following a missed connection
at Heathrow. Although anyone who has had a difficult flight
experience can sympathize with the plight of Ms. Cooper when
she missed her connecting flight, neither that sympathy nor
all of the facts presented in connection with Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment, Dkt. 47, suffice to create a
question of fact for the jury. Accordingly, Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
purchased a roundtrip ticket from Newark, New Jersey, to
Nairobi, Kenya, using United Airlines frequent flier miles.
Pl.'s Local Rule 56.1 Counterstatement
(“56.1”) ¶¶ 2, 3 (Dkt.
Plaintiff's return voyage involved a flight on Ethiopian
Airlines to Heathrow. 56.1 ¶¶ 4-6, 8-10. She was to
connect at Heathrow with a United flight back to Newark.
Id. ¶ 10. According to Plaintiff, United made
all of her flight arrangements. Id. ¶¶
her Ethiopian Airlines flight arrived late into London,
Plaintiff missed her connection. Id. ¶¶
19, 23-25, 35. She went to the United counter, but all United
employees had left for the day, as United's last flight
had already departed. Id. ¶¶ 31, 33.
Plaintiff proceeded to the United Club Departure Lounge (the
“Lounge”). Id. ¶¶ 36, 38-40;
Def.'s Ex. B, Pl. Dep., 75:4-78:11 (Dkt. 48-2). By the
time Plaintiff arrived at the Lounge reception area, all
United employees had gone for the evening, and the Lounge was
staffed by Sodexo employees. 56.1 ¶¶ 40-41.
is an independent contractor that operates the Lounge at
particular hours. Id. ¶ 42. Sodexo and United
are parties to a Service Agreement, which “sets forth
the terms and conditions under which Sodexo will provide food
and beverage services, cleaning services and employee
staffing” at the Lounge. Def.'s Ex. F, Service
Agreement (“SA”), ¶ 1 (Dkt. 48-6). The
Service Agreement includes specifications concerning employee
appearance and attitude, 56.1 ¶ 52, and notes that
Sodexo will train Lounge employees in “[g]eneral
knowledge about United, ” SA at 28.
arriving at the Lounge reception area, Plaintiff explained
that she had missed her connecting United flight and that she
had arrived on Ethiopian Airlines. 56.1 ¶ 53. A Sodexo
employee informed Plaintiff of United's policy that, if a
delivering carrier has arrived late, the customer must be
rebooked by the delivering carrier. Id. ¶ 54.
Pursuant to that policy, the Sodexo employee instructed
Plaintiff to return to Ethiopian Airlines. Id.
¶ 56. Plaintiff told the employee that she was
“very tired” and asked to use the Lounge
restroom. Id. ¶ 61. The employee informed
Plaintiff that she would need to present a reservation for an
upcoming flight to enter the Lounge. Id. ¶ 82.
At that time, Plaintiff did not have a reservation for an
upcoming flight. 56.1 ¶ 64.
being told that she could not enter the Lounge, Plaintiff
entered and sat down. Id. ¶¶ 87-89. A
Sodexo manager contacted Heathrow Security. Id.
¶ 97. Plaintiff then contacted her son, who was in the
United States, via FaceTime, and he proceeded to audio record
the subsequent events. Id. ¶ 90. Heathrow
Security arrived and informed Plaintiff that the Lounge staff
did not have the capability to rebook her ticket from the
Lounge. Def.'s Ex. G, FaceTime Tr. (“FaceTime
Tr.”) 2:5-6 (Dkt. 48-7). Heathrow Security reiterated
to Plaintiff that she needed to go to the Ethiopian Airlines
ticket counter to rebook her flight. Plaintiff refused
because it was “too far” and she was
“hot” and “tired.” Id.
3:13-24. The following exchange ensued:
Heathrow Security: You can't be here.
Plaintiff: I can be here.
Heathrow Security: No, you can't.
Plaintiff: I'm going to sit right here.
Heathrow Security: Ma'am, I'm going to get the
Plaintiff: Get the police. I don't care.
Id. 3:25-4:8. Heathrow Security proceeded to call
the Metropolitan Police (“Police”). 56.1 ¶
105. At or around this time, Plaintiff's son contacted
United by telephone to book her on the next available flight
from London to Newark. Id. ¶ 93.
after Plaintiff's son had successfully booked a
reservation for a United flight, the Police arrived. FaceTime
Tr. 27:21-28:8. According to Plaintiff, the Sodexo employees
told the Police that they did not want Plaintiff in the
Lounge. 56.1 ¶ 144. Although Plaintiff showed her
reservation to the Police, Heathrow Security explained that
Plaintiff could not remain in the Lounge, even with a
reservation, because the Lounge closes overnight. FaceTime
Tr. 36:20-25. Heathrow Security further advised Plaintiff
that, in accordance with the rules of the airport, Plaintiff
was not allowed to remain airside-that is, beyond the
security gate-without a ticket for a flight on ...