DOT rebukes airlines again over refunds as complaints skyrocket

The DOT again issued guidance on who’s entitled to a cash refund.


The Department of Transportation said complaints from consumers about airline refunds have surged to “unprecedented” levelsΒ amid the coronavirus outbreak.


Complaints filed with the DOT skyrocketed to more than 25,000 in March and April, up from the typical amount of 1,500 per month.


This has promoted the DOT to issue a second enforcement notice to carriers, reminding them of their obligation to provide refunds for cancelled flights.


Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said: “The Department has received an unprecedented volume of complaints from passengers and is examining this issue closely to ensure that airlines’ policies and practices conform to DOT’s refund rules.


“The Department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time.”


The agency warned airlines in April that they have to offer refunds, not just vouchers. However, complaints still poured in claiming vouchers were the only option being offered by the carriers.


According to reports, Democratic lawmakers are introducing legislation that would hold major US airlines legally responsible for giving customers refunds,Β even if their flight was not cancelled.


The Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act, spearheaded by Senator Edward Markey, would require the airline to “promptly offer a full cash refund for cancelled tickets” regardless of whether the airline or the passenger cancelled the trip.


“People are desperate, people need money, people are out of work, people are worried about taking care of their families,” he told ABC News.


Markey will formally introduce the legislation today.


The Department of Transportation have published a FAQ which can be found here.