The US has ordered Tata-group-owned Air India to pay $121.5 million in refunds and $1.4 million in penalties for severe delays in providing refunds to passengers due to cancellations or changes travel, mostly during the pandemic, officials said.
Air India is one of six airlines that agreed to cough up a total of more than $600 million in refunds, the US Department of Transportation said on Monday.
Air India’s “refund on request” policy is at odds with the Department of Transportation’s policy, which mandates air carriers to legally refund tickets in case of flight cancellations or changes, officials said.
The cases where Air India was asked to pay the refund and agreed to pay the penalty before the national carrier was taken over by the Tatas.
According to an official investigation, Air India took more than 100 days to process more than half of the 1,900 refund complaints filed with the Transport Department for flights canceled or rescheduled by the carrier. .
Air India could not provide the agency with information about the time it takes to process refunds for passengers who submit complaints and request refunds directly to the carrier.
“Despite Air India’s stated refund policy, in practice Air India does not provide timely refunds. As a result, consumers are experiencing significant harm from severe delays in receiving their refunds,” the US Department of Transportation said.
Besides Air India, other airlines that have been fined include Frontier, TAP Portugal, Aero Mexico, EI AI, and Avianca.
The Department of Transportation said Air India was ordered to pay $121.5 million in refunds to its passengers and pay $1.4 million in fines.
Frontier was ordered to pay $222 million in refunds and a $2.2 million penalty. TAP Portugal will pay $126.5 million in refunds and $1.1 million in penalties; Avianca ($76.8 million refund and $750,000 penalty), EI AI ($61.9 million refund and $900,000 penalty) and Aero Mexico ($13.6 million refund and $900,00 penalty).
In addition to the more than $600 million in refunds paid by the airlines, the Department of Transportation announced that it is assessing more than $7.25 million in civil penalties against these six airlines for the egregious delay in providing refunds.
Along with Monday’s fines, the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection assessed $8.1 million in civil penalties in 2022, the largest amount issued in a single year by that office, a release said. media.
Under US law, airlines and ticket agents have a legal obligation to refund consumers if the airline cancels or changes a flight to, from and within the US, and the passenger does not wish to accept the alternative offered.
It is illegal for an airline to refuse to refund and instead give vouchers to such consumers, the Department of Transportation said.
“If a flight is canceled, passengers seeking refunds must be paid immediately. If that doesn’t happen, we will take action to hold the airlines accountable for American travelers and give the passengers their money back,” said US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn’t have to fight or wait months to get your refund,” he said.
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