On Nov. 14, the U.S. Department of Transportation slapped multiple airlines with fines, and forced them to refund more than $600 million to those who had their flights canceled or delayed over the course of the pandemic.
Each airline company forked over millions of dollars each for customers who were long overdue for settlements as part of the department’s vow to resolve the issue.
Refunds for everyone
According to the Transportation Department the refunds would help make sure that airline companies compensate for the “hundreds of thousands of passengers who had their flights canceled or significantly changed,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttgieg told reporters.
“It shouldn’t take enforcement action from [the Transportation Department] to get airlines to pay the funds that they’re required to pay,” he added, according to Fox News.
Altogether, more than $7.25 million in civil penalties had to be made against six airlines.
According to Reuters, many travelers waited “months or even years” to get their refunds, especially those who had their flights delayed or canceled during the pandemic.
Buttigieg said that Frontier Airlines had to pay $222 million in refunds, along with $2.2 million in penalties. The company claimed it made $92 million in refunds, in addition to credit and voucher redemptions for those who canceled their non-refundable tickets during the pandemic. They claim that the refunds “demonstrate Frontier’s commitment to treating our customers with fairness and flexibility.”
Air India, owned by Tata Group, had to pay $121.5 million in refunds and pay a $1.4 million fine. The Department of Transportation also objected to the company’s “refund on request” policy, which some claim defies its own policy, Simple Flying reported.
“Irrespective of Air India’s stated refund policy, in practice Air India did not provide timely refunds. As a result, consumers experienced significant harm from the extreme delay in receiving their refunds,” the Department said.
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TAP Portugal will be providing $126.5 million in refunds and fined $1.1 million. The company fired most of its staff during the pandemic, which was said to have caused delays in processing refunds efficiently.
Colombia’s Avianca will be required to pay $76.8 million in refunds and a $1.1 million penalty. El Al Israel Airlines will pay $76.8 million in refunds, with a $750,000 penalty.
El Al and Avianca both told the Department of Transportation that they had no policy of denying refunds. However, El Al told them that it was unable to comply with the refunds due to the effects the “COVID-19 public health emergency had on its personnel and its finances.” Avianca, on the other hand, “had to process approximately seven-year’s worth of refund requests in one year with reduced staffing.
Aeromexico will have to pay $13.6 million in refunds and a $900,000 fine. In 2020 and 2021, the airline said it would process refunds “12 months after receipt,” which caused thousands of U.S. passengers to not get their refunds on time.