US completes 10 airline refund investigations, plans enforcement action


WASHINGTON, July 10 (Reuters) – The U.S. government has completed 10 investigations into airlines over delays or denials of passenger refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic and will take enforcement action in the coming weeks, said a Transportation Department official told Reuters on Sunday.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg revealed on Sunday that investigations into passenger refunds had been completed and said 10 more airline investigations were still ongoing.

“We’ll work with airlines when they’re ready to take positive, proactive steps, whether it’s pay improvements that make it easier to hire or flexibility in customer service,” Buttigieg told Fox News. sunday. “We will also uphold the rights of passengers and consumers.”

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Neither Buttigieg nor the department identified the airlines. Buttigieg said the government was investigating airlines “who failed to reimburse passengers after being stranded by cancellations”. He said the probes are “to ensure that consumers and passengers are protected”.

In September 2021, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) said it had 18 ongoing investigations into complaints that airlines failed to provide timely refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airlines for America, an industry group, said Sunday, “We look forward to working with the federal government to identify and resolve common challenges to minimize disruption and ensure safe and seamless travel.”

Air Canada (AC.TO) in November agreed to a $4.5 million settlement to resolve a USDOT investigation into claims that thousands of airline passenger refunds were delayed.

In June 2021, the USDOT said it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada for the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds, alleging the airline had a no-refund policy. in violation of US law for over a year.

The USDOT said it plans to issue refund rules for consumers who cannot travel due to government restrictions. Existing regulations do not address eligibility for reimbursement under special circumstances, such as government-imposed travel restrictions.

Buttigieg met with airline chief executives last month to try to ensure summer flight schedules are followed after a series of cancellations. Airlines have canceled or delayed thousands of flights, angering consumers. Airlines blamed air traffic control staffing issues at the Federal Aviation Administration for much of the problem.

Buttigieg said, “We saw some improvement over the summer, but still not to an acceptable level in terms of performance, cancellation and delays.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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