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DOT orders Frontier and other carriers to pay travelers over $600 million in refunds, proposes change in consumer protection laws

The U.S. Department of Transportation said on Monday that it had ordered airlines to refund travelers whose flights were canceled or significantly changed by the airlines. Among these is Frontier... ( More...

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Mark Jenkins 5
Fining Frontier is just the tip of the iceberg, or it should be, at least. With few exceptions (maybe Southwest) the US airlines engaged in extreme subterfuge to avoid providing refunds required by law, in many cases getting passengers to accept a vastly inferior compensation in the form of a limited-lifetime travel voucher. I think that some steps have been taken towards making the involuntary refund process more transparent, but ultimately it should be as easy as booking the flight in the first place. If the airline can't provide the carriage for which you paid, then they have to give you your money back. Simple. Straightforward. Any attempts at evasion or lying about the requirements should result in triple damages.

Both US Code and the "Contract of Carriage" I received from Delta when I bought a ticket to Hawaii in early 2020 required the airline to refund my money if the flight for which I purchased a ticket was canceled or had a significant alteration in its scheduled departure. But "dark patterns", evasive maneuvers, and word games quickly commenced late March when it became obvious that my flight scheduled for late April 2020 wasn't going to happen.

Delta insisted that Delta wasn't responsible for giving me a refund, the ticketing agent was. I called the ticketing agent, who insisted multiple times in multiple phone calls that I didn't understand the law or the Contract of Carriage, no refund was required or forthcoming, and the best that I could get was a one-year travel voucher. I stuck to my guns with the ticketing agent, and finally got to talk to a manager who pointed out that my flight wasn't actually "canceled" yet, it was just no longer "scheduled". I told the manager "fine... I'll call back the day before the flight when it is actually canceled and you can give me my refund then." We ended the phone call, but he called me back about five minutes later and said that I was right, I should get a refund, and I got my refund.

From conversations I had with other people in similar situations, this approach to refusing refunds was widespread. Certain airlines like Southwest had much better non-refund options. Some had longer travel voucher lifetimes (what good is a one year travel voucher at the beginning of a worldwide pandemic that by all estimates was going to take multiple years to quell?). Some had unlimited travel credit. But most had crappy travel voucher offers at best. And they were all ignoring the US Code that clearly states that in this circumstance (the airline can't provide the very thing you have paid for, a ticket to travel from Point A to Point B on a specific date and time) the airline has to return the money that you paid. In Delta's case, the "fine print" (Contract of Carriage) that they sent to me after my ticket purchase actually said exactly the same thing (probably because US Code requires it).

Jaime Terrassa 4
with interest
James Simms 3
Should be w/2x or 3x interest cons the underhanded deception. Or w/2x interest w/a percentage coming out of every company officers pay who approved it. They won’t miss a year or so worth of pay. Then, quite possibly; it wouldn’t happen again as it could give them pause to think abt it.


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