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US Transportation Department Asks Air India To Refund $121.5 Million To Passengers – Simple Flying

The carrier is one of six airlines ordered to pay the refunds.
Air India has been asked to pay more than $120 million as passenger refunds by the US to compensate for flight cancellations and delays during the pandemic. The airline is one of six carriers that have been ordered to pay up according to the policies dictated by the country's transportation department.
The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has asked Air India to pay $121.5 million as refunds to passengers for cancelling flights, mainly during the COVID pandemic. Furthermore, the airline is required to pay an additional $1.4 million as a penalty for delaying the refund process.
It has been found that Air India took more than 100 days to process more than half of the 1,900 refunds resulting from cancelations or major schedule changes due to the global health crisis. The Press Trust of India quotes the US Department of Transportation as saying,
“Irrespective of Air India's stated refund policy, in practice Air India did not provide timely refunds. As a result, consumers experienced significant harm from the extreme delay in receiving their refunds.”
USDOT officials also raised objection to Air India's "refund on request" policy, which they said goes against its own policy, which asks for carriers to issue refunds whenever there's a cancellation of flights. It must be noted that the cases for which refunds have been sought predate the Tata Group's acquisition of the carrier.
Air India is one of six airlines pulled up by the transportation department. Other airlines include Frontier, which was asked to part with $222 million and a fine of $2.2 million for the delays.
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TAP Portugal has been asked to pay $126.5 along with a fine of $1.1 million. Avianca needs to pay $76.8 million and a penalty of $750,000, and El Al has to pay $61.9 million in refunds and $900,000 in penalties. Aero Mexico, too, is part of the list and has been ordered to refund $13.6 million along with a fine of $900,000.
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg commented,
“When a flight gets cancelled, passengers seeking refunds should be paid back promptly. Whenever that doesn't happen, we will act to hold airlines accountable on behalf of American travellers and get passengers their money back.”
“A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn't also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund.”
It's been more than two years since the onset of the global pandemic, but many passengers are still waiting for their refunds for flights canceled during lockdowns. In September, it was reported that Air India had issued more than 250,000 refunds worth $18 million and had prioritized clearing up the backlog. The refund ordered by the US is a lot more than that.
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The carrier has also extended the validity of flying returns (FR) points, tier status and member status, and associated benefits under Flying Returns, the airline's 'Frequent Flyer' program, until March 31st, 2023.
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With a background in publishing and digital media, Gaurav likes to combine his love for aviation with his fondness for storytelling. He's a keen observer of ever-changing aviation trends around the world and particularly in India. Gaurav also keeps a close eye on the fleet development of all major carriers and their subsequent impact on regional and international routes. Based in New Delhi, India.

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