Airlines Fined Millions for Failing To Provide Flight Reimbursements
(USNewsMag.com) – Anyone who has ever experienced a flight cancellation or delay knows how frustrating it can be to have to reschedule or get a refund. To make matters worse, many airlines will often issue a voucher instead of returning a consumer’s money in an effort to keep the cash. The government recently took steps to not only hold these companies accountable but also to ensure positive changes take effect moving forward.
Fines Levied, Refunds Paid
On Monday, November 14, Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, announced that the Department of Transportation (DOT) had levied more than $7 million in civil fines against six airlines. In addition, these companies collectively have paid or will pay over $600 million in refunds due to customers who either had flights canceled or were subject to significant changes.
The hardest hit airline is Frontier, which the DOT penalized $2.2 million. It also has to pay out $222 million in required refunds. The others include:
- Air India – must pay out $121.5 million in refunds and a $1.4 million fine
- TAP Portugal – must pay out $126.5 million in refunds and a $1.1 million fine
- Avianca – must pay out $76.8 million in refunds and a $750,000 fine
- El Al – must pay out $61.9 million in refunds and a $900,000 fine
- Aeromexico – must pay out $13.6 million and a $900,000 fine
To ensure compliance moving forward, the DOT is proposing further action, including codifying the interpretation of unfair business practices that occur when airlines refuse to refund fares after they specifically cancel or significantly adjust flight times. The agency also wants to require airlines to provide non-expiring vouchers to consumers who must cancel trips due to communicable diseases.
Currently, this proposal is open for comments until November 21.
Some Say It’s Not Enough
While some people are happy to see accountability, others argue that it’s not enough. According to William McGee of the American Economic Liberties Project, this action “comes almost three years too late and leaves out the most egregious U.S. offenders.” These include Delta, United, and American Airlines, which have staunchly refused to provide refunds.
He particularly wants to see the DOT hold the airlines that had operational struggles this past summer accountable. Many overbooked flights, or booked too many, and had to cancel them, due to staffing concerns. Many changes occurred at the last minute, or with very little notice, which left travelers stranded.
It’s unclear how the fines have affected the way airlines are treating refund requests. However, the DOT has expressed that this is not the last of the fines being handed down. Pete Buttigieg, speaking in the press conference, said the agency will continue “ratcheting up the penalty side” until airlines conduct business fairly for all customers.
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