Consumer Watchdog, PIRG
Consumer Watchdog, PIRG
Director of Media Relations, The Public Interest Network
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Monday that it is forcing six airlines to repay passengers more than $600 million in refunds and fining those carriers a collective $7.25 million for what the DOT called “extreme delays in providing refunds.”
The action brings civil penalties assessed by DOT this year to $8.1 million, a record for any year.
The fines and refunds amounts are:
- Frontier: $222 million in required refunds paid and a $2.2 million penalty
- Air India: $121.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.4 million penalty
- TAP Portugal: $126.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.1 million penalty
- Aeromexico: $13.6 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty
- El Al: $61.9 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty
- Avianca: $76.8 million in required refunds paid and a $750,000 penalty
In response, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog Teresa Murray said:
“It’s great that the DOT is finally demanding some accountability, but $600 million is a drop in the bucket. Airlines owe some $10 billion in refunds going back to the beginning of the pandemic. “Furthermore, only one U.S.-based airline is in this group. Domestic carriers accepted billions of dollars in taxpayer money to stay afloat during the early months of the pandemic. As travelers know all too well, the industry used the money to offer employees lucrative buyouts and retirement packages, leaving their operations understaffed.
“The upcoming holiday travel season could be filled with just as much chaos as other heavy travel periods during the last two years. We hope we see fewer cancellations and delays. But when those cancellations occur, passengers need to remember that they’re entitled to a full refund under federal law.
“In July, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and six other consumer and passenger rights groups sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to make it clear to airlines they need to reform, starting by minimizing cancellations and delays. Until that happens, the DOT needs to keep up the pressure — and penalize any airline that fails to properly treat fliers and their money.”
PIRG has put together a guide to your rights to a refund under federal law and tips to understand airlines’ policies on credits and vouchers, which flyers don’t have to accept when the airline cancels the flight.