The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it charged British Airways a $1.1 million fine for failing to provide timely refunds for passengers on flights to and from the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic on June 1.
According to Reuters, the DOT received over 1,200 complaints against British Airways for failing to refund passengers in a timely manner, which the airline denies.
The department promised to credit the airline $550,000 toward the penalty because in 2020 and 2021 it issued more than $40 million in refunds to customers with nonrefundable tickets, though maintains that a lack of customer service phone lines meant that people were unable to request refunds for months.
DOT fined LATAM Airlines Group $1 million over the same issue in May 2023. These higher fines come as the department seeks to curb consumer protection rule violations.
The department acts upon its Air Travel Consumer Reports, which have noted a marked increase in consumer complaints following the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 alone, it received a record-high 102,560 complaints.
The 2022 report states, “During the past two years, the Department has issued historic enforcement actions against eight airlines, which were fined nearly $12 million ($11.925 million) and collectively paid more than a billion dollars to people who were owed a refund due to canceled or significantly changed flights. The fines issued last year for consumer protection violations were the largest in the history of OACP and are part of DOT’s ongoing work to ensure Americans are treated fairly.”
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