The USA ordered Air India to pay up to $121.5 million in refunds to passengers who had their flights cancelled or changed, mostly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, the airline has been asked to pay another $1.4 million in fines for the delays in disbursing refunds.
The development comes following a crackdown by the US Department of Transportation on airlines that refuse to reimburse passengers for cancelled flights. The DOT has ordered six airlines to pay $600 million in refunds to hundreds of thousands of passengers in addition to fines worth $7.5 million in total, according to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
The other airlines subjected to the action are: TAP Air Portugal, Aeromexico,
“When a flight gets cancelled, passengers seeking refunds should be paid back promptly,” Buttigieg said. “When that doesn't occur, we will take action to make airlines answerable on behalf of American tourists and recover passengers' money.”
“A flight cancellation is frustrating enough and you shouldn’t also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund,” he said. Airlines are obligated to give passengers refunds when a flight is cancelled for any reason, but frequently, in an effort to keep the money, many airlines provide vouchers or credit for future travel instead of a refund. Airlines’ refusal to give passengers their money back has become a huge source of consumer complaints, especially during the early days of the pandemic when almost no one was flying.