Federal officials announced Monday that Frontier Airlines and five foreign airlines had agreed to pay more than $600 millions to travelers who have been affected by the pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Transportation stated that the same airlines were also penalized more than $7,000,000 for delaying refunds because they broke consumer-protection regulations.
The bulk of refund complaints were made by the largest U.S. airlines. Officials said that no other U.S. carriers are under investigation for possible fines.
Consumers filed thousands of complaints against the agency about inability to receive refunds after airlines cancelled large numbers of flights in the wake of the pandemic that struck the U.S. in the early 2020s. This was the most common category of complaints.
“When Americans buy a ticket on an airline, we expect to get to our destination safely, reliably and affordably, and our job at DOT is to hold airlines accountable for these expectations,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
According to the department, Frontier Airlines will be refunded $222 million and pay a $2.2million civil penalty.
The government filed a consent order charging Frontier with changing its definition of a significant delayed to make refunds more likely. In 2020, an online credit processing system was shut down for 15 days.
Frontier spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said the Denver-based airline issued nearly $100 million in “goodwill refunds,” including to people with non-refundable tickets who canceled on their own and were not entitled to a refund under federal law.
The refunds “demonstrate Frontier’s commitment to treating our customers with fairness and flexibility,” de la Cruz said.
The Transportation Department said TAP Portugal will refund $126.5 million and pay a $1.1 million fine; Air India will pay $121.5 million in refunds and a $1.4 million penalty; Aeromexico will pay $13.6 million and a $900,000 fine; Israel’s El Al will pay $61.9 million and a $900,000 penalty; and Colombia’s Avianca will pay $76.8 million and a $750,000 fine.
“We have more enforcement actions and investigations underway and there may be more news to come by way of fines,” Buttigieg said during a call with reporters.
However, there will be no fines for other U.S. airlines because they responded “shortly after” the Transportation Department reminded them in April 2020 of their obligation to provide quick refunds, said Blane Workie, the assistant general counsel for the Transportation Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection.
“We do not have any pending cases against other U.S. carriers. Our remaining cases are against foreign air carriers,” Workie said on the same call with Buttigieg.
That did not satisfy consumer advocates, who said that the major U.S. airlines also violated rules around refunds — even if they took corrective steps more quickly.
“Frontier was a bad player in all this, and they deserve to be fined, and we’re glad they are paying the refunds they were supposed to pay, but we are very critical of how the DOT just seems to not want to go after the biggest fish, the ones causing the most problems,” said Bill McGee of the American Economic Liberties Project, a non-partisan group that opposes concentrated industrial power.
2020 United Airlines had the most refund-related complaints filed with DOT — more than 10,000 — although smaller Frontier had a higher rate of complaints. Air Canada, El Al Portugal and TAP Portugal followed with over 5,000 each. American AirlinesFrontier, which both top 4,000
Air Canada paid $4.5 million last year to settle similar U.S. claims of slow refunds. It was also given $2.5 million credit for refunds. The Transportation Department initially sought $25.5 million in that case.
Sign up to receive the Fortune Features email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews, and investigations.
[Denial of responsibility! smye-holland.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – at smye-holland.com The content will be deleted within 24 hours.]
Leave a Reply