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Airline Tries to Shut Nosy Steward’s Website

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) - American Airlines claims in court that a former employee is posting "confidential, proprietary, sensitive business information of American and its passengers" on his website - including the names of airline executives and their wives who bump passengers from first-class seats.

American Airlines sued Gailen David and John Does 1-10 in Tarrant County Court, alleging breach of the duty of loyalty, breach of fiduciary duty, trademark infringement and aiding and abetting.

American Airlines says during and after his employment, David published a website

"Defendant David's websites are interactive website used for commercial purposes and for transacting business in the state of Texas," the complaint states. "The websites offer online email and purchasing capabilities to Texas consumers. Defendant David's websites allow customers, followers and friends who are Texas residents to submit comments and questions to defendant David and receive feedback, comments and email from defendant David in Texas. ... The websites sponsor advertising directed to consumers in the state of Texas. Some of the advertising sponsored on defendant David's websites includes advertising on behalf of air carriers that compete with American. ...

"The defendant David's web sites also seek monetary donations to further causes supported by defendant David from consumers of the state of Texas. The web sites advocate a petition drive to consumers of the state of Texas requesting them to sign a petition asking a U.S. bankruptcy judge to make certain decisions with respect to American's parent company's bankruptcy proceeding. ...

"Defendant David's websites also market their products and services to residents of the state of Texas by improperly using American's marks without its permission or authorization.

"Defendant David's web sites market the products it sells to Texas residents, in part, by publishing content about American, its management and operations. Recently, however, defendant Does and David have become involved in a conspiracy to access and use confidential, proprietary, sensitive business information of American and its passengers in violation of defendants' fiduciary duties; their duties of loyalty to their employer; and in violation of state law."

American claims that on Feb. 29, one or more Does sent proprietary, confidential information to David about a passenger, by name, and David posted the information, and the passenger's name on his website.

On March 8, American claims, Does sent to David, and David posted, information about another man, by name, "and his lovely wife," also named, and an "AMR Board Member," also named, who "will be traveling to Miami from Washington on the 9th ..."

The March 8 posting included: "Ms. [name] uses American as her own private airline that won't fly until she's ready ... The flight left over an hour late, causing scores of passengers to miss their connections to Europe," the complaint states.

American says it fired David on March 14.

The complaint adds: "Since defendant David's termination, based on information and belief, he continues to conspire with, and be aided and abetted by defendant Does in accessing, using and disclosing American's confidential information from the Sabre [database, ticketing, itinerary and scheduling] system. As defendant David boasted on his website, 'Although I am not an employee of American Airlines - American will always be a part of me and my coworkers will always be my family. I will continue my work as The Sky Steward with a very special focus on what's happening at AA. My moles are still in place.'

"Defendant David further admitted to publishing passenger travel plans in commenting on his termination of employment. Defendant David stated: 'The only travel plans mentioned on my site involved current and former American Airlines executives and board members traveling in first class with their spouses and bumping American's full fare first class passengers to coach in order to provide them with a first class seat.'"

According to the complaint, "Based on information and belief, defendant David's information was procured through defendant Does (current American employees) through unauthorized use or access of American's Sabre system that details the type of tickets or passes on which American's passengers travel. Such information is confidential, proprietary internal business information of American and defendant Does breached their fiduciary duties and duty of loyalty in passing that information along to a defendant David who then disseminated it to the public."

The complaint then cites a March 19 posting that included the name of a wife of a retired vice president of American, who allegedly bumped another passenger, "and even earned AAdvantage miles" on her flight "from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Orlando." The posting included the seat the woman sat in, the seat to which the bumped passenger was sent, and the flight number.

American claims: "In addition to the use and disclosure of American's confidential, proprietary and internal business information, defendant David is also improperly infringing on, diluting or tainting American marks. Numerous postings on defendant David's websites use the famous and distinctive American marks including the use of 'AA.' ...

"Defendant David's commercial use of American Marks is likely to injure the business reputation or dilute the distinctive quality of American's registered and valid

trademarks through at least tarnishment. American seeks to enjoin defendant David from the manufacture, use, and display of American marks; to enter judgment in American's favor for an amount not to exceed three times the amount of profit defendant David has received or damages American has suffered from defendant David's use of American marks and for an award of reasonable attorneys' fees to American."

American is represented by Dee Kelly, with Kelly Hart of Fort Worth.

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