Judge awards $1,500 to couple in ticket dispute
The U.S. Embassy Association Business Center must pay an American family about $1,500 in a lawsuit over an airline ticket mix-up, Judge Cho Mi-ok announced Friday in Seoul Western District Court.
Marine Col. Thompson Gerke and his wife, Catherine, sued the contracted business center for $11,054 in connection with a March 2006 incident in which they thought they were buying first-class, not business class, airline tickets.
Cho also ordered the Gerkes, who left South Korea earlier this year, and the business center to split all court fees. Court officials were unable Friday to provide an estimate of those costs.
Business center representative Bruce Lee said Friday that he didn’t feel he had won or lost the case.
Catherine Gerke did not respond to an e-mail query and her lawyer, Lee Su-hwan, was unavailable for comment Friday.
During earlier sessions, the judge recommended the business center pay a $4,000 settlement.
Business center personnel have admitted there was a translation problem when the tickets were sold to the Gerkes in 2006 and the center has since stopped selling travel tickets.
Earlier this year, Catherine Gerke provided Stars and Stripes with more than 140 pages of documents, including e-mail traffic with base officials, 8th Army legal opinions and the findings of Yongsan Garrison’s Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board.
The Gerkes paid nearly $18,000 for what they thought were three round-trip, first-class tickets to Virginia after Catherine Gerke’s mother died in 2006. Gerke said she was recovering from back surgery and her doctor told her she must lie flat during the trip.
At the airport, however, the family learned they had business-class seats and paid the airline an additional $5,527 to upgrade to first class on the U.S.-bound flight.
They wanted the business center to pay for the cost of the upgrade had they flown first-class round-trip, even though they returned to South Korea in business class.
They said Army lawyers advised them they are owed $11,054, even though they spent only $5,527 for the one-way upgrade.
Business center officials have said their employees misread the ticket codes and poor English translation exacerbated the problem, but that they offered to pay the exact amount the Gerkes paid to upgrade their airline tickets.