Lawsuit Claims Delta Hacked, Stole E-Mails From Passenger Rights Advocate

By Joel Zand on October 13, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Delta Air Lines hacked e-mails of airline passenger rights advocate Kathleen 'Kate' Hanni, USA Today reporter Gary Stoller, and freelance travel writer and reporter Susan Stellin, according to an affidavit in a new lawsuit filed today by Hanni, the founder of Coalition for An Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights a/k/a

Why was Delta accused of hacking into e-mails, and who is the source of the information about the alleged hacks -- a potential criminal offense?

Dr. Frederick J. Foreman, a mathetematical modeling expert who worked for Metron Aviation alleges in an affidavit attached to the lawsuit that he only learned about "what appeared to be hacked and stolen email communications" shortly before he was fired by Metron's SVP and General Manger James Gaughan.


Foreman alleged that his personal and his privately held company's e-mail address were hacked.

"There were no emails communications from Metron Aviation's email system only communications from private accounts," he concluded -- after Gaughan showed him email correspondence on Gaughan's own computer monitor-- between him and Hanni, Stoller, and Stellin lasting over a six months.

Foreman says that he told Gaughan that the only data about excessive surface delays was already available to the public, "simply by analyzing the public information that is available online" from U.S. Department of Transportation data.

He adds credibility to Hanni's lawsuit by alleging Gaughan admitted:

"that Delta Airlines [sic] was afraid that Kate Hanni was going to use the information that I gave her as fuel for getting the Passenger Bill of Rights passed in Congress. He said that Delta Airlines [sic] sent this [hacked e-mail] information to them. I took this to mean that Delta Airlines [sic] and Metron Aviation both had a copy of these hacked and stolen email communications.

Hanni maintains that the airlines are worried about losing a lot of money if had to recompense passengers for flight delays and give them the option of getting off a plane that was stuck on an airport tarmac for over three hours.  "If the bills are passed, airlines stand to lose over $40,000,000.00 in lost revenue and millions more in accommodations for flyers deplaned during delays." (emphasis in original)

Hanni and her organization seek at least $1 million in actual damages, as well as $10 million in punitive damages.

You can read Hanni's lawsuit here:


Just who is Kate Hanni? An airline passenger who was stuck on an airport tarmac in Austin, Texas for 9 hours without food, water, or information when her family's Dallas-bound flight from San Francisco was diverted in 2006.

After that incident, she formed a non-profit 501(c)(3) group, the Coalition for an Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights, a co-plaintiff in the case.

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Photo credit: caribb / flickr, used under Creative Commons License
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