According to government officials, Frontier Airlines and four international carriers have agreed to return more than $600 million to travelers whose travels have been postponed or considerably delayed due to the pandemic.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the same airlines were also hit with a $7 million fine for breaking consumer protection laws by delaying reimbursements for so long.
The most prominent American airlines, who received the majority of refund complaints, escaped fines, and a representative said no other American airlines are under investigation for potential penalties.
When the airlines abruptly canceled many flights after the epidemic hit the U.S. in early 2020, customers inundated the agency with thousands of complaints about their inability to receive refunds.
It was by far the most prevalent complaint type.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated that “when Americans buy a ticket on an airline, we expect to get to our destination safely, reliably, and affordably, and our duty at DOT is to hold airlines accountable for these expectations.”
According to the government, Frontier Airlines, based in Denver, is returning $222 million and paying a $2.2 million civil penalty.
The Transportation Department announced that TAP Portugal would refund $126.5 million and pay a $1.1 million fine, Air India would pay $121.5 million in refunds and a $1.4 million fine, Aeromexico would pay $13.6 million and a $900,000 fine, Israel’s El Al would pay $61.9 million and a $900,000 fine, and Colombia’s Avianca would pay $76.8 million and a $750,000 fine.
During a conference call with reporters, Buttigieg stated, “We have other enforcement actions and investigations pending, and there may be more news regarding fines.”
However, there won’t be any penalties for other U.S. airlines because they replied “shortly after” the Transportation Department reminded them of their duty to provide prompt refunds in April 2020, according to Blane Workie, the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection’s associate general counsel.
“We do not currently have any lawsuits pending against other American carriers. On the same call as Buttigieg, Workie remarked, “Our remaining claims are against foreign airlines.
With almost 10,000 complaints, United Airlines had the most refund-related DOT complaints in 2020.
After Frontier and American Airlines, which exceeded 4,000, came Air Canada, El Al, and TAP Portugal, all of which had over 5,000 passengers.
Last year, Air Canada agreed to pay $4.5 million to resolve similar U.S. claims of late reimbursements. In that case, the Transportation Department requested $25.5 million at first.