The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the refunds and fines on Monday, November 14, 2022, as part of a sweeping set of enforcement actions against multiple airlines.
Refunds Recovered from Five Foreign Airlines and Frontier
Since the beginning of the pandemic, airlines have been slow to refund flyers with cancelled flights. Under federal law, airlines must offer flyers an airfare refund if there is a significant change or cancellation of a flight arriving in, within, or departing from the United States, and flyers do not accept the carrier’s alternative option. In June 2022, the government agency warned airlines that penalties could be assessed for companies that do not provide prompt refunds.
In the latest round of actions, six airlines were targeted for enforcement, including five carriers based outside of the United States. The airlines forced to pay fines and provide refunds are:
- Frontier Airlines: $222 million in refunds; $2.2 million penalty
- Air India: $121.5 million in refunds; $1.4 million penalty
- TAP Portugal: $126.5 million in refunds; $1.1 million penalty
- Aeromexico: $13.6 million in refunds; $900,000 penalty
- El Al: $61.9 million in refunds; $900,000 penalty
- Avianca: $76.8 million in refunds; $750,000 penalty
“When a flight gets canceled, passengers seeking refunds should be paid back promptly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “Whenever that doesn’t happen, we will act to hold airlines accountable on behalf of American travelers and get passengers their money back.”
With the new enforcement actions, airlines have been assessed over $8 million in financial penalties in 2022, setting a new single year record for the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection. The fines will be paid to the U.S. Treasury, with some of the funds going back to flyers beyond the legal requirement.
The new fines closes the loop on Frontier, which has been the subject of scrutiny for over a year. In 2020, the Colorado Attorney General requested the Transportation Department review Frontier’s refund policies after receiving “more complaints about Frontier’s conduct…than any other company” during the pandemic. Neither Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser nor leaders from Frontier have commented on the enforcement actions.
Refunds and Fines Latest Moves to Improve Airline Consumer Protections
The additional refund and fine orders are the Transportation Department’s latest move to improve consumer protections for airfare and aviation. In September 2022, The White House paired up with the agency to announce a set of proposed rules for airfare transparency – a move opposed by the major air carriers.
Get the latest news on how airlines and countries are responding to the endemic on the FlyerTalk forums.
Feature image courtesy: kmf164/flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Source: frugal travel guy