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Department of Transportation Orders Airlines to Issue $600 Million in Refunds to Passengers

by Aoife O’Riordan

Nov 16, 2022

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eFlyer Lead

The U.S. Department of Transportation just announced its decision to order airlines to pay more than $600 million in refunds to airline passengers. The decision is backed by new enforcement actions issued Nov. 14. The refunds go to those owed a refund due to a canceled or significantly changed flight.

“When a flight gets canceled, passengers seeking refunds should be paid back promptly. Whenever that doesn’t happen, we will act to hold airlines accountable on behalf of American travelers and get passengers their money back,” said Pete Buttigieg, secretary, U.S. Transportation. “A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn’t also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund.”

The fines doled out to these six airlines comprise part of DOT’s continuing work to ensure Americans receive refunds owed to them from airlines. Since early 2020, DOT received many complaints from air travelers about airlines not providing them with timely refunds after a delayed or significantly changed flight.

On top of the decision to order airlines to refund more than $600 million to passengers, DOT also announced its assessment of more than $7.25 million in civil penalties against six airlines for extreme delays in providing passengers with refunds. So far, the airlines assessed and required to provide refunds are:

  • Frontier Airlines: $222 million in required refunds paid and a $2.2 million penalty
  • Air India: $121.5 million required in refunds paid and a $1.4 million penalty
  • TAP Portugal: $126.5 million required in refunds paid and a $1.1 million penalty
  • Aeromexico: $13.6 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty
  • EL AL Israel Airlines: $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

DOT’s efforts already helped lead to hundreds of thousands of passengers to receive more than half a billion dollars in required funds, with plans to issue additional orders assessing civil penalties for consumer protection violations this calendar year.

Other additional actions taken by DOT include a new airline customer service dashboard to help consumers determine what they are owed when a flight is canceled or delayed because of an airline issue. Before the creation of this dashboard, none of the 10 largest U.S. airlines guaranteed meals or hotels when a delay or cancellation was within the airlines’ control, the only action taken being one offered, free rebooking. Since the creation of the dashboard, nine airlines now guarantee meals and hotels when an airline issue delays or cancels a flight.

DOT proposed several new rules, as well, including a rule on airline ticket refunds and a rule strengthening consumers’ protections by providing access to certain fee information before purchasing airline tickets.

Do you think more airlines should be held accountable for delays and/or cancellations? Have you experienced a cancellation or delay in the last two years? Did you request a refund? Have you yet to receive your full refund? What are your thoughts on the Department’s crackdown on these policies? Tell us your thoughts. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and location.

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