WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – The Department of Transportation announced new enforcement action against airlines for failing to provide timely refunds to customers when they were owed by law. However, consumer advocates say the announced fines are a disappointment.
The DOT says it is taking historic enforcement action against airlines.
“Six airlines are going to be facing fines for taking too long or creating too many obstacles for passengers who tried to get refunds,” said Dept. of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg says his agency just handed out $7 million in fines, pushing airlines to issue hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds for pandemic-related cancelations and delays.
“We know it’s effective because these refunds have now been issued, or the instructions have been sent to passengers,” Buttigieg said.
But not everyone is celebrating.
“Quite frankly we were very disappointed,” said Bill McGee, with the American Economic Liberties Project – a nonprofit devoted to fighting corporate malfeasance.
“There were only seven airlines that were penalized for this, only one of them was a US airline, Frontier,” McGee said.
Despite Monday’s announcement, McGee points out all major US airlines were left untouched by the fines.
“Where were the penalties for the largest offenders? United Airlines for example, in the year 2020, had more complaints from consumers filed with the DOT on the issue of refunds than any other airline,” McGee said.
While the transportation department says their action will result in some $600 million in refunds, McGee says that’s only a fraction of the $10 billion airlines owe their customers.