The US Department of Transport (DoT) has carried out investigations on ten airlines regarding the timely repayment of passenger refunds over the pandemic. The regulator says it will begin enforcement action against the carriers in the coming weeks. In the meantime, a further ten airlines are in the process of being probed.

Justice for Consumers

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, US Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said the Department was working to “make sure that the consumers and passengers are protected” by investigating airlines that are “failing to provide refunds to passengers after they got stuck with cancellations.”

US transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg | US DoT
US Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg | © US DoT

Neither Buttigieg nor the DoT identified the 20 airlines currently under scrutiny. Still, the transportation secretary said, “We’ll collaborate with airlines when they’re ready to take steps that are positive and proactive, whether that’s improvements in pay that are helping with hiring or flexibility in customer service,” Adding, “We’re also going to enforce passenger and consumer rights.”

In September of last year, the Department of Transportation said it had 18 pending investigations over complaints of airlines failing to refund customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Rules

As well as chasing up airlines who have failed to refund passengers on time, the DoT is also introducing new rules pertaining to passengers unable to fly due to government restrictions, such as national lockdowns. The present regulations do not cover the exceptional cases of refund eligibility, such as if a passenger can’t fly due to government-imposed travel restrictions.

DoT chases up passenger refunds
Some passengers have not been refunded for flights during the pandemic | © Business Insider

The Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath have forced governments to become much more involved in aviation regulations, especially after the first few months of 2022, when airports and airlines were burdened with more passengers than they could handle.

In the UK, the CAA and DfT stepped in to reduce the chaos by ordering airlines to reduce their summer schedules to more manageable levels. In the US, improvements are still ongoing, says Buttigieg: “We’ve seen some improvement over the course of the summer, but still not an acceptable level in terms of performance, cancellation and delays.”

Have you had issues getting refunds from an American carrier? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

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