Latest DOT Fines for Unpaid Refunds Leave Out Worst Offenders

November 14, 2022 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — In response to news today that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) levied penalties against six airlines — Frontier, Air India, TAP Portugal, Aeromexico, El Al, and Avianca — for not promptly paying flight refunds, the American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement.

“Airlines that brazenly skirt the rules deserve to be fined, but this latest round of enforcement from the USDOT comes almost three years too late and leaves out the most egregious U.S. offenders,” said William J. McGee, Senior Fellow for Aviation & Travel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “Frontier’s decision to withhold valid refunds deserves punishment. But so too does the ongoing abuse of passengers by American, Delta, and United, whose market share dwarfs Frontier’s. The USDOT must address widespread flight disruptions amid soaring airfares, and restore confidence in flying ahead of this holiday season — or we all risk a repeat of the summer’s flight debacles.”

Out of six airlines fined by the USDOT, Frontier Airlines is the only domestic carrier included in the enforcement action. For example, United led all domestic carriers with 10,229 consumer refund complaints in 2020, far outpacing Frontier’s 4,329 complaints, and yet United and other U.S. airlines have not been penalized. Since COVID lockdowns began in March 2020, the airline industry has ignored its obligations to provide refunds for cancelled and delayed flights, yet the USDOT has not fined a single U.S. airline other than Frontier so much as $1 for unpaid refunds or widespread flight delays and cancellations.

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The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.