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Airlines ordered to refund customers $600M for canceled flights

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More than $600 million will be paid to customers who are owed a refund by several airlines for flights that were significantly delayed or canceled, the Department of Transportation said.

Additionally, the DOT is imposing fines on six airlines that, the DOT said, did not provide timely refunds to passengers.

The Department of Transportation estimates that hundreds of thousands of customers will be affected by the announcement.

The fines assessed and required refunds provided are:

  • Frontier – $222 million in refunds, $2.2 million fine
  • Air India – $121.5 million in refunds, $1.4 million fine
  • TAP Portugal – $126.5 million in refunds, $1.1 million fine
  • Aeromexico – $13.6 million in refunds, $900,000 fine
  • El Al – $61.9 million in refunds, $900,000 penalty
  • Avianca – $76.8 million in refunds, $750,000 fine

“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. “A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn’t also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund.”

The Transportation Department requires airlines to offer refunds when flights are canceled or “significantly changed.”

Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation proposed expanding the number of instances a customer is entitled to an automatic refund. The proposal would include specific language for a “significantly changed” flight. Those include:

  • Changes that affect the departure and/or arrival times by three hours or more for a domestic flight or six hours or more for an international flight
  • Changes to the departure or arrival airport
  • Changes that increase the number of connections in the itinerary
  • Changes to the type of aircraft flown if it causes a significant downgrade in the air travel experience or amenities available onboard the flight

The Department of Transportation accepts complaints on its website from airline customers who believe they are owed a refund.

By Justin Boggs, Scripps National

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