U.S. DOT Fines Frontier, Others over Cancelled Flights
Airlines Business / Finance Industry

U.S. DOT Fines Frontier, Others over Cancelled Flights

DALLAS — “As people get ready to fly this holiday season, I want customers to know that the D.O.T. has their back.” That’s the word from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg as his department fined six airlines a total of more than US$7m.

The fines were issued due to the airlines’ failing to provide timely refunds to customers for cancelled or significantly altered flights.

The announcement comes less than a week after the US midterm elections in which the Democrats, Buttigieg’s party, welcomed stronger than expected results, and is the latest in a string of actions the Department has taken on behalf of airline customers.

Receiving the largest fine of US$2.2m was Denver-based Frontier Airlines (F9), the only US airline fined Monday.

Also cited were Air India (AI), US$1.4m, and TAP Air Portugal (TP) US$1.1m. The fines for Aeromexico (AM), El Al (LY), and Avianca (AV) amounted to less than US$1m each.

According to the New York Times, Monday’s fines bring the total issued so far in 2022 by the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection to a record US$8.1m.

In a statement, F9 said that it had issued about US$100m in “good will” refunds that were not required by law. As the Department of Transportation is crediting it for providing refunds to passengers who cancelled nonrefundable tickets early in the pandemic, the airline will pay only US$1m of the fine. Frontier has issued US$222m in refunds.

Frontier will pay US$1m of a US$2.2m fine issued by the U.S. D.O.T Monday. Frontier N369FR Airbus A320neo. Photo: Ryan Scottini/Airways

Too Little Too Late?

However, some industry analysts and consumer groups say that the Department’s action is too little too late. The Times quotes William J. McGee, a senior fellow for aviation at the American Economic Liberties Project as saying, “Airlines that brazenly skirt the rules deserve to be fined, but this latest round of enforcement from the U.S. D.O.T comes almost three years too late and leaves out the most egregious U.S. offenders.”

McGee says that the major U.S. airlines also deserved punishment for their operational meltdowns this past summer.

Buttigieg said that “Even though we are dealing with tens of thousands of complaints fielded by a team of about three dozen people, we are moving quickly to make sure airlines understand that they are accountable for the rules and for treating customers the way they say they will. This really shouldn’t be happening in the first place. And we’ll continue ratcheting up the penalty side until we’re seeing less of this kind of behavior.”

Featured image: Frontier Airlines N708FR Airbus A321. Photo: Sean Brink/Airways

John Huston is a marketer, writer, and videographer who's always loved planes, clocked 10 whole hours in a Cessna and can spend hours wandering around ATL. Based in Atlanta, GA, United States.

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