US Department of Transportation releases report on airline refunds for COVID-19 affected services

    US Department of Transportation (DoT) released (10-Sep-2021) a report on its efforts to address the failure of airlines to provide timely refunds for services cancelled or significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report found the following:

    • DoT received nearly 125,000 consumer complaints in 2020 and 1H2021 – the highest number on record – with 84.3% pertaining to refunds;
    • DoT has taken the following actions:
      • Issued two enforcement notices on airlines’ obligations to provide refunds;
      • Initiated investigations against 20 airlines for failing to provide timely refunds, 18 of which are still pending;
      • Issued a formal complaint against Air Canada seeking a substantial fine for extreme delays in refunds;
      • Taken steps to increase the number of its staff handling consumer complaints by 38%;
    • DoT actions have resulted in:
      • At least nine airlines amending their policies to make clear that passengers are entitled to a refund when a carrier cancels a service or makes a significant schedule change and are providing refunds as opposed to vouchers or credits;
      • Thousands of passengers who had initially been denied refunds have received or are receiving the required refunds;
    • DoT is planning the following additional steps to protect consumers:
      • Initiating rule making which would enhance passengers’ rights when a service is operating but the passenger decides not to fly because of government restrictions, which current regulations do not cover in this situation;
      • Moving forward with rule making on ancillary fees – called for in US President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy – which would require airlines to increase the transparency of fees for ancillary services. [more – original PR]
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