Airlines Fined For Slow Action On Ticket Refunds During Covid Pandemic


Airlines around the world have paid more than $600 million in refunds for flights that were either canceled or changed as a result of the pandemic. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued $7.25 million in fines to six airlines for “extreme delays in providing those refunds to passengers,” according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a recent phone conference with reporters.

The only U.S. airline to be fined was low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, which changed its definition of “significant schedule change” in March 2020, the DOT said. The others were Aeromexico, Air India, Avianca, El Al and TAP Portugal. Additional fines levied on airlines this year bring the overall total to $8.1 million, setting a record for civil penalties assessed by the DOT’s consumer protection program. Some 20 percent of 7,243 consumer complaints filed against airlines this year have involved refund issues, according to the DOT.

Buttigieg told reporters the DOT believes “that 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, many of which are a matter of law and regulation.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Airlines: “We’re totally in with everything we need to do to address the pandemic. Social Distancing: Check; Masks required: Check – Double or Triple as necessary; Control-freakish cabin crews in place, acting on instructions: Check, and we’re eagerly awaiting a vaccine passport edict.”

    DOT: “You really need to issue refunds to passengers for cancelled flights.”

    Airlines: “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s not get carried away here…”

  2. How many thousands of stiffed travelers gave up and never got refunds? There are areas and institutions that should be overseen with a swift government iron fist where scofflaws all the way up to the top should go to jail and get substantial fines. If a CEO, CFO etc. is likely to head to the slammer and be substantially poorer, this kind of stuff would not be much of a problem. Lack of consequences for illegal acts is the biggest problem in US civil society including those in government institutions.

    • Or more precisely, lack of consequences for those who have the final say, rather than the hapless employees who are just executing the demands of those in charge. The captain of a ship is responsible for the conduct of the crew under there command, and C-title employees should be held to the same standard.