These Airlines Are Required to Pay Passengers More Than $600 Million in Refunds

It's a major win for air travelers

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On Monday, the Department of Transportation penalized six airlines to the tune of around $607 million for failing to deliver timely refunds to air travelers whose flights were significantly affected by the pandemic.

In a "historic enforcement action," the six carriers—Frontier Airlines, Air India, TAP Portugal, Aeromexico, El Al, and Avianca—were collectively fined more than $7.25 million in civil penalties, and were mandated to pay passengers $600 million-plus in refunds.

"When a flight gets canceled, passengers seeking refunds should be paid back promptly. Whenever that doesn't happen, we will act to hold airlines accountable on behalf of American travelers and get passengers their money back," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement. "A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn't also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund." 

Budget carrier Frontier Airlines was hit with the largest fine, owing customers $222 million in refunds on top of a $2.2 million penalty, followed by Air India, which was ordered to give $121.5 million back to passengers and pay a $1.4 million fine.

"Frontier Airlines has issued over $92 million in refunds and redeemed credits and vouchers to customers who voluntarily canceled their non-refundable tickets during the pandemic and were not entitled to a refund under U.S. law," Frontier spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz told reporters. De la Cruz also shared that the airline "will make a total out-of-pocket payment in the amount of $1 million, having received a $1.2 million goodwill refund credit."

While the $600 million in refunds have already been paid out, "there may be additional money owed to consumers," a DOT spokesperson told Newsweek. "If consumers have not received a required refund or been informed by the six airlines on how to obtain the refund owed to them then they should file a complaint with us."

Alternatively, passengers who believe they are owed compensation can file refund requests directly with Frontier, TAP Portugal, Air India, Aeromexico, El Al, and Avianca.

"The bottom line is that as people get ready to fly this holiday season, I want passengers to know that the U.S. DOT has their back, of course when it comes to safety, but also when it comes to meeting these important customer service standards," said Buttigieg during a news conference on Monday.

The news is just the latest in the DOT's concerted efforts to make refunds easier for air travelers. In August, Buttigieg shared a proposal requiring airlines to provide non-expiring travel vouchers or credits to consumers "who are unable to travel as scheduled in certain circumstances related to a serious communicable disease." One month later, in September, the DOT launched a dashboard that displays what services and amenities each airline has committed to in the event of controllable cancellations and delays.

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Transportation. "More Than $600 Million in Refunds Returned to Airline Passengers Under DOT Rules Backed by New Enforcement Actions Issued Today." November 14, 2022.

  2. U.S. Department of Transportation. "More Than $600 Million in Refunds Returned to Airline Passengers Under DOT Rules Backed by New Enforcement Actions Issued Today." November 14, 2022.

  3. The Points Guy. "DOT Gets More Airlines To Pay Up, Announces $600 Million in Passenger Refunds." November 14, 2022.

  4. Newsweek. "DOT Airline Refund - How To Claim Money Back for Canceled Flights." November 15, 2022.

  5. Department of Transportation. "Airline Ticket Refunds and Consumer Protections." August 3, 2022.