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Morales v. TWA

Supreme Court of the United States

March 3, 1992, Argued ; June 1, 1992, Decided

No. 90-1604


 [*378]  [***163]  [**2034]    JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The issue in this case is whether the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, 49 U. S. C. App. § 1301 et seq., pre-empts the States from prohibiting allegedly deceptive airline fare advertisements through enforcement of their general consumer protection statutes.

Prior to 1978, the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (FAA), 72 Stat. 731, as amended, 49 U. S. C. App. § 1301 et seq.,  [***164]  gave the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) authority to regulate interstate airfares and to take administrative action against certain deceptive trade practices. It did not, however, expressly pre-empt state regulation, and contained a "saving clause" providing that "nothing . . . in this chapter shall in any way abridge or alter the remedies now existing at common law or by statute, but the provisions of this chapter are in addition to such remedies." 49 U. S. C. App. § 1506. [****10]  As a result, the States were able to regulate intrastate airfares (including those offered by interstate air carriers), see, e. g., California v. CAB, 189 U.S. App. D.C. 176, 178, 581 F.2d 954, 956 (1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 1068, 59 L. Ed. 2d 32, 99 S. Ct. 834 (1979), and to enforce their own laws against deceptive trade practices, see Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc., 426 U.S. 290, 300, 48 L. Ed. 2d 643, 96 S. Ct. 1978 (1976).

In 1978, however, Congress, determining that "maximum reliance on competitive market forces" would best further "efficiency, innovation, and low prices" as well as "variety [and] quality . . . of air transportation services," enacted the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA). 49 U. S. C. App. §§ 1302(a)(4), 1302(a)(9). To ensure that the States would not undo federal deregulation with regulation of their own, the ADA included a pre-emption provision, prohibiting the States from enforcing any law "relating to rates, routes, or  [*379]  services" of any air carrier. § 1305(a)(1). The ADA retained the CAB's previous enforcement authority regarding deceptive trade practices [****11]  (which was transferred to the Department of Transportation (DOT) when the CAB was abolished in 1985), and it also did not repeal or alter the saving clause in the prior law.

In 1987, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), an organization whose membership includes the attorneys general of all 50 States, various Territories, and the District of Columbia, adopted Air Travel Industry Enforcement Guidelines (set forth in an Appendix to this opinion) containing detailed standards governing the content and format of airline advertising, the awarding of premiums to regular customers (so-called "frequent flyers"), and the payment of compensation to passengers who voluntarily yield their seats on overbooked flights. These guidelines do not purport to "create any new laws or regulations" applying to the airline industry; rather, they claim to "explain in detail how existing state laws apply to air fare advertising and frequent flyer programs." NAAG Guidelines, Introduction (1988).

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504 U.S. 374 *; 112 S. Ct. 2031 **; 119 L. Ed. 2d 157 ***; 1992 U.S. LEXIS 3254 ****; 60 U.S.L.W. 4444; 1992-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) P69,828; 92 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4585; 92 Daily Journal DAR 7347; 6 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 306



Disposition: 949 F.2d 141, affirmed in part and reversed in part.


airlines, advertising, fare, Guideline, restrictions, disclosure, consumers, vested, rates, pre-empted, conspicuous, ticket, pre-emption, frequent, flyer, flight, notice, seats, state law, routes, changes, travel, programs, awards, mileage, limits, print, air fare, words, deceptive

Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Federal & State Interrelationships, Abstention, Equity, General Overview, Adequate Remedy at Law, Irreparable Injury, Governments, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate, Erie Doctrine, Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, ADA Enforcement, Legislation, Effect & Operation, Transportation Law, Air & Space Transportation, Charters, Transportation Law, Commercial Airlines, Airline Deregulation Act, Preemption, Interpretation, Savings Clause, Pensions & Benefits Law, ERISA, Federal Preemption, State Laws