Many passengers are still waiting for refunds from airlines after having their flights canceled or significantly altered as a result of COVID-19. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is issuing a second official warning to airlines over refunds. The agency claims that it received more than 25,000 complaints from air travelers during the months of April and March. That's a sharp increase from the 1,500 per month the agency usually receives. Airline customers are reporting that airlines are failing to provide refunds in accordance with the law.
The Department of Transportation already issued a warning to airlines over their refund polices back in April. However, it looks like the ambiguity contained within the DOT's wording may be behind some of the confusion. You may recall that the DOT's warning from April reminded airlines that they had an obligation to refund ticket amounts if flights are canceled or significantly changed. However, the DOT did not provide a definition for what would qualify a flight as being 'significantly changed'. Some customers find that airlines are using that ambiguous wording to avoid giving passengers full refunds.
The DOT is warning that enforcement actions will be used against airlines that fail to fulfil refund obligations based on reasonable interpretations. That includes cases where an airline has ignored a refund requirement or failed to honor its own refund policy. The DOT will also take enforcement actions in instances where a carrier's refund policies are determined to be deceptive or unfair.
That's not all. The DOT is also reminding passengers that they are not entitled to refunds if they choose to cancel or change reservations for flights that are still being operated without significant changes. This applies even if a customer has a concern related to COVID-19. However, the DOT is making an effort to investigate any claims of airlines misleading passengers about flight statuses to avoid offering refunds.