Frontier Airlines and four foreign airlines have agreed to jointly reimburse more than $600 million to travelers whose trips have been canceled or significantly delayed since the start of the pandemic, federal officials said Monday.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it also fined the same airlines more than $7 million for delaying refunds for so long that they violated consumer protection rules.
The largest U.S. carriers, which accounted for the bulk of refund complaints, are avoiding fines, and an official said no other U.S. carriers are being investigated for potential fines.
Consumers flooded the agency with thousands of complaints about their inability to get refunds as airlines canceled large numbers of flights after the pandemic hit the US in early 2020. It was by far the most important category of complaints.
“When Americans purchase a ticket from an airline, we expect to arrive at our destination safely, reliably and affordably, and it is our job at DOT to hold airlines accountable for these expectations,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The department said Denver-based Frontier Airlines will refund $222 million and pay a $2.2 million fine.
TAP Portugal will repay $126.5 million and pay a $1.1 million fine; Air India pays $121.5 million in refunds and a $1.4 million fine; Aeromexico pays $13.6 million and a $900,000 fine; Israeli El Al pays $61.9 million and a $900,000 fine; and Avianca of Colombia will pay $76.8 million and a $750,000 fine, the Transportation Department said.
“We have more enforcement actions and investigations underway and there may be more news in the form of fines,” Buttigieg said while speaking to reporters.
However, there will be no fines for other U.S. airlines for responding “shortly after” the transportation department reminded them in April 2020 of their obligation to issue prompt refunds, said Blane Workie, the assistant general counsel to the Office of Aviation Consumer of the United States. transportation department. Protection.
“We have no pending cases against other US airlines. Our remaining cases are against foreign airlines,” Workie said during the same conversation with Buttigieg.
In 2020, United Airlines had the most refund complaints filed with DOT: more than 10,000. Air Canada, El Al and TAP Portugal were next, both above 5,000, followed by American Airlines and Frontier, both above 4,000.
Air Canada last year agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle similar allegations of slow refunds in the US. The Transportation Department initially sought $25.5 million in that case.