US DOT Issues Second Warning to Airlines Over Refunds

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a second warning to airlines about providing refunds to customers who had their flights canceled as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

According to, DOT officials received more than 25,000 complaints about a lack of refunds between March and April, which is up from the 1,500 complaints the department usually receives.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said on the DOT’s website it has launched an investigation into the “unprecedented volume of complaints” and will be looking to ensure carriers are following the refund policies and practices set forth by the agency.

“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,” Chao said in a statement.

The original warning from the DOT in April noted that refunds were required for “canceled or significantly altered” flights, but carriers have allegedly used the wording of the warning to interpret and bend the rules.

Consumer Reports aviation advisor William McGee told the Dallas Morning News airlines are using exclusions, such as nonrefundable fares and the use of Online Travel Agencies, to get away with not issuing refunds to impacted customers.

Instead of refunds, many travelers are being offered vouchers or credits.

The DOT also announced airlines would be permitted to stop flying to as much as five percent of the destinations they had previously served, which would provide relief to financially-strapped carriers who benefited from the CARES Act.

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