Airlines around the world have paid more than $600 million in refunds for flights that were either canceled or changed as a result of the pandemic. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued $7.25 million in fines to six airlines for “extreme delays in providing those refunds to passengers,” according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a recent phone conference with reporters.

The only U.S. airline to be fined was low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, which changed its definition of “significant schedule change” in March 2020, the DOT said. The others were Aeromexico, Air India, Avianca, El Al and TAP Portugal. Additional fines levied on airlines this year bring the overall total to $8.1 million, setting a record for civil penalties assessed by the DOT’s consumer protection program. Some 20 percent of 7,243 consumer complaints filed against airlines this year have involved refund issues, according to the DOT.

Buttigieg told reporters the DOT believes “that when Americans buy a ticket on an airline, we expect to get to our destination safely, reliably and affordably. And our job at DOT is to hold airlines accountable for these expectations, many of which are a matter of law and regulation.”

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