DOT Fines Six Airlines for Delaying Refunds to Customers
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced enforcement actions against six airlines. The airlines have already paid more than half a billion dollars collectively to people who were owed a refund due to a canceled or significantly changed flight.
The airlines fined by DOT include Frontier, Air India, TAP Portugal, Aeromexico, El Al and Avianca. Frontier, for example, paid out $222 million in refunds and has been fined an additional $2.2 million for delays in payment.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOT has received tons of complaints from air travelers regarding airlines’ failures to provide timely refunds for canceled or significantly changed flights.
In addition to the more than $600 million in refunds airlines have paid back, the Department announced this week an additional $7.25 million in civil penalties the six airlines. With these fines, the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection has assessed $8.1 million in civil penalties in 2022, the largest amount ever issued in a single year by that office. A majority of the assessed fines will be collected in the form of payments to the Treasury Department, with the remainder credited on the basis of payments to passengers beyond the legal requirement.
The Department’s efforts have helped lead to hundreds of thousands of passengers being provided with more than half a billion dollars in required refunds. The DOT expects to issue additional orders assessing civil penalties for consumer protection violations this calendar year.
The fines assessed this week and required refunds provided are:
- Frontier – $222 million in required refunds paid and a $2.2 million penalty
- Air India – $121.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.4 million penalty
- TAP Portugal – $126.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.1 million penalty
- Aeromexico – $13.6 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty
- El Al – $61.9 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty
- Avianca – $76.8 million in required refunds paid and a $750,000 penalty
U.S. law says that airlines and ticket agents have a legal obligation to refund consumers if the airline cancels or significantly changes a flight to, from and within the United States, and the passenger does not wish to accept the alternative offered.
It is unlawful for an airline to refuse refunds and instead provide vouchers to such consumers.
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