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DOT Report: 18 Airlines Still Being Probed Over Pandemic Refunds

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is still reviewing 30,100 outstanding complaints involving 18 airlines as part of an investigation into delayed refunds for flights canceled over the pandemic.

“The department has devoted considerable time, energy, and effort to securing relief for consumers and holding airlines accountable,” the USDOT said in a recently released report.

See also: Traveler Complaints Prompt DOT To Remind Airlines Of Refund Rules

During the pandemic’s early weeks and months, airlines and ticket agents couldn’t keep up with the high volume of refund requests it was getting due to canceled flights. As a result, the USDOT was hit with numerous complaints, receiving 102,561 in 2020, a historic high.

By comparison, in the five years before the pandemic, the agency received an average of 17,420 total complaints, with refunds accounting for about 8.25% of them. During January through July of this year, the USDOT received a total of 22,357 consumer complaints. In the past 18 months, 84.3% of all complaints concerned refunds.

So far, the USDOT has initiated 20 probes and issued two enforcement notices that oblige the airlines to send refunds. Some nine airlines have changed their policies to reflect passengers are clearly entitled to refunds if carriers change the flight significantly. Some had policies that offered vouchers or credits.

See: Delta Variant Could Further Hamper US Airline Industry

Air Canada was hit with a formal complaint and a $25.5 million fine in June that’s currently in settlement negotiations, per media reports. The complaint alleged that the airline delayed refunds for some 5,000 passengers by up to 13 months.

Other plans the DOT has on tap include establishing rules that boost consumers’ rights when a flight is in operation, but a person doesn’t want to fly due to government restrictions. Another proposed mandate would require airlines to make fees for ancillary services transparent.

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