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Airlines Returns More Than $600 Mln To Passengers; Imposed $7.25 Mln Fine: DOT

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The U.S. Department of Transportation or DOT has fined $7.25 million to six airlines across the world, which also collectively returned around $600 million in refunds to their passengers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the DOT said these fines are for extreme delays in providing refunds. They are part of its ongoing work to ensure Americans receive the refunds they are owed from airlines due to a canceled or significantly changed flight.

The enforcement actions were taken against Frontier, Air India, TAP Portugal, Aeromexico, El Al, and Avianca airlines.

DOT imposed penalties on airlines as follows: Frontier - $2.2 million; Air India -$1.4 million; TAP Portugal -$1.1 million; $900,000 each for Aeromexico and El Al, and $750,000 for Avianca.

These actions were taken after the agency received a flood of complaints from air travelers since the beginning of the pandemic about airlines' failures to provide timely refunds after they had their flights canceled or significantly changed.

Meanwhile Frontier already paid back $222 million in the required refunds, while Air India paid back $121.5 million. TAP Portugal's share of refunds was $126.5 million, Aeromexico paid back $13.6 million, El Al paid back $61.9 million and Avianca paid back $76.8 million in required refunds.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, "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. A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn't also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund."

The Department's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection has assessed $8.1 million in civil penalties in 2022 so far.

Under U.S. law, airlines and ticket agents are legally obliged to refund consumers if the airline cancels or significantly changes a flight to, from and within the country.

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