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Transportation Department investigating 20 airlines over refund issues

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Transportation Department investigating 20 airlines over refund issues
Air Canada was hit with fines for not giving refunds to passengers for flights canceled during the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The Department of Transportation said Friday it has received more than 102,000 complaints from travel customers about airlines failing to give refunds for flights canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic -- an increase of more than 500% from the previous year.

The DOT's report, produced as part of an executive order by President Joe Biden, said that while airlines were obligated to refund tickets in a timely manner, more than a dozen airlines were slow or reluctant to do so.

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The department said it started investigations into 20 airlines for failing to timely provide refunds, 18 of which are ongoing. It filed a formal complaint against Air Canada seeking fines for what it called "extreme delays" in providing refunds to passengers.

With Air Canada, the report said some passengers waited five to 13 months to receive refunds for canceled flights. The airline racked up more than 5,000 violations during the DOT's investigation.The DOT said it increased its staff handling such complaints by 38% just to tackle the overload.

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As a result, at least nine airlines have amended their policies to make clear that passengers are entitled to a refund when a carrier cancels a flight or makes a significant schedule change and are providing refunds as required.

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It said thousands of passengers who had initially been denied refunds are receiving money back rather than vouchers, which were given at times.

Last month, air travel was snarled due to bad weather and staff shortages. American and Spirit airlines reported hundreds of cancellations.

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