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LAXintl
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DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 3:17 pm

DOT Aviation Enforcement Office is out with a second enforcement notice after receiving 25,000 consumer complaints during March and April (vs regular 1,500) over consumer issues related to ticket refunds.

Department reminds airlines they have an obligation to provide a refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels or significantly changes the passenger’s flight. DOT notes airlines have developed their own interpretations of "cancelation" and "significant change" and expects carriers to honor reasonable interpretations in implementing their refund obligations.

It also notes airlines that retroactively amend their refund policies that affect consumers negatively can be interpreted as unfair or deceptive practices.

DOT also says airlines must process refunds in a timely manner - which it defines as within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid
by cash or check.


https://www.transportation.gov/sites/do ... 020%29.pdf

=

Personally, until the DOT actually starts assessing significant fines against the airlines, it seems they will continue to play with consumers and sit on the money as long as they can.
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KlimaBXsst
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 3:22 pm

Completely reasonable upon the part of the consumer.
Aesthetically the A 340 got it right!
 
32andBelow
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 6:49 pm

If they want to keep the money they need to offer additional value. My gym offered a 120% credit if we kept paying during the gym closure.
 
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EA CO AS
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 7:47 pm

LAXintl wrote:
DOT also says airlines must process refunds in a timely manner - which it defines as within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash or check.


The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.
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atcanobbio
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 8:23 pm

Aeromexico has been AWFUL with refunds. I hope they start issuing refunds before the DOT goes after them.
 
toltommy
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 8:51 pm

gwrudolph wrote:
In profitable or turbulent times, U.S. airline policies and the implementation of them are so one-sided. Doesn’t seem to matter whether they are making or losing $2b a year.

Anyone wonder why they are one of the most distrusted and complained about industries in the U.S.


Oh those awful airlines. The consumer demands ever cheaper airfare, and has gotten it. Look at the DOT data. Average airfares, when adjusted for inflation, are cheaper than they were 20 years ago. Including fees. But if it means one less bathroom on board, 30 inches pitch instead of 31, or that a refund doesn't come as quickly as they think it should? The airlines are evil I tell ya, just evil!!!!

Funny, I don't recall the IRS having a 7 day turnaround on refunds. But then again, the government usually has its own set of rules....
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Jetsgo
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 9:31 pm

EA CO AS wrote:
LAXintl wrote:
DOT also says airlines must process refunds in a timely manner - which it defines as within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash or check.


The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.


Honest question... why would current staffing be unable to cope with an influx in refunds? Can’t the process be automated? If a refund is legally warranted, shouldn’t the consumer be able to request it online? I’d imagine all it requires is some simple coding really. However, if this is just another mechanism designed to frustrate consumers into giving up, perhaps DOT needs to go down that rabbit hole.
Last edited by Jetsgo on Tue May 12, 2020 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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32andBelow
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 9:42 pm

EA CO AS wrote:
LAXintl wrote:
DOT also says airlines must process refunds in a timely manner - which it defines as within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash or check.


The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.

Yet the airlines are actively fighting charge backs. The credit card companies can do this all for them.
 
rajincajun01
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 10:32 pm

EA CO AS wrote:
The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.

As the DOT liaison for my airline, no such communication has come from the Department. They are still enforcing 30/60 day response times as well. The only exception is a lot more cases are not requiring a response to the DOT because passengers state they voluntarily cancelled.
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blueflyer
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 11:01 pm

Courts have long ago taken the approach that contractual agreements are not suicide pacts. If a party can demonstrate that circumstances unforeseen at the time of the contract make it impossible to honor all the terms of the contract, and that they are taking reasonable steps to come as close to as possible, courts will generally be lenient. If added time is all that it takes to ensure compliance, courts will usually impose a new deadline (possibly with financial penalties to “encourage” compliance).

With that in mind, the DOT has nothing to gain by pushing as hard as they could (by imposing fines and/or taking legal action) and can show some leniency of its own.

gwrudolph wrote:
In profitable or turbulent times, U.S. airline policies and the implementation of them are so one-sided. Doesn’t seem to matter whether they are making or losing $2b a year.

That is unfortunately not unique to the airline industry and what happens when the government allows consolidations to a point there are only three or four nationwide players left. The more painful it is to switch from one provider to the next, the more one-sided the vendors' terms will be, especially when they already have their customers' funds...

32andBelow wrote:
Yet the airlines are actively fighting charge backs. The credit card companies can do this all for them.

Airlines shouldn't and wouldn't blindly accept all charge back requests. For one thing, not every trip can be refunded just yet (e.g. a Thanksgiving trip booked last month) so someone still has to look at the request. For another, issuers and processors charge merchants a fee for each charge back, and also the number of valid charge backs is a factor in determining future processing rates. Processing a credit card refund comes with its own set of fees, but it is still cheaper than a charge-back.

It is possible that airlines may not even look at each request individually, but that is not necessarily good news for consumers. Air France has famously reached a deal with American Express where all charge backs requests for French cardholders are automatically denied (as an aside, this agreement will be a legal mess that will be fun to untangle - Air France claims the automatic denial is necessary to enforce a French government decree granting airlines the right to issue vouchers when a refund is due, however the EU, which in this matter has dominion, has pointedly and expressly refused to allow vouchers).
 
32andBelow
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Tue May 12, 2020 11:13 pm

blueflyer wrote:
Courts have long ago taken the approach that contractual agreements are not suicide pacts. If a party can demonstrate that circumstances unforeseen at the time of the contract make it impossible to honor all the terms of the contract, and that they are taking reasonable steps to come as close to as possible, courts will generally be lenient. If added time is all that it takes to ensure compliance, courts will usually impose a new deadline (possibly with financial penalties to “encourage” compliance).

With that in mind, the DOT has nothing to gain by pushing as hard as they could (by imposing fines and/or taking legal action) and can show some leniency of its own.

gwrudolph wrote:
In profitable or turbulent times, U.S. airline policies and the implementation of them are so one-sided. Doesn’t seem to matter whether they are making or losing $2b a year.

That is unfortunately not unique to the airline industry and what happens when the government allows consolidations to a point there are only three or four nationwide players left. The more painful it is to switch from one provider to the next, the more one-sided the vendors' terms will be, especially when they already have their customers' funds...

32andBelow wrote:
Yet the airlines are actively fighting charge backs. The credit card companies can do this all for them.

Airlines shouldn't and wouldn't blindly accept all charge back requests. For one thing, not every trip can be refunded just yet (e.g. a Thanksgiving trip booked last month) so someone still has to look at the request. For another, issuers and processors charge merchants a fee for each charge back, and also the number of valid charge backs is a factor in determining future processing rates. Processing a credit card refund comes with its own set of fees, but it is still cheaper than a charge-back.

It is possible that airlines may not even look at each request individually, but that is not necessarily good news for consumers. Air France has famously reached a deal with American Express where all charge backs requests for French cardholders are automatically denied (as an aside, this agreement will be a legal mess that will be fun to untangle - Air France claims the automatic denial is necessary to enforce a French government decree granting airlines the right to issue vouchers when a refund is due, however the EU, which in this matter has dominion, has pointedly and expressly refused to allow vouchers).

Then they need to figure out how to process them. They can be inept and making the refunds in one departments and then fight chargebacks in another department. That’s Ridiculous.
 
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atcsundevil
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Wed May 13, 2020 1:14 am

atcanobbio wrote:
Aeromexico has been AWFUL with refunds. I hope they start issuing refunds before the DOT goes after them.

I would say good luck getting the DOT to be able to take enforcement action of any kind against a foreign flag carrier. Unless your ticket was purchased as a codeshare through a US based carrier, I would temper your expectations if I were you. Don't get me wrong, I am sympathetic, but the DOT has very few enforcement options with non-US flagged carriers.

LAXintl wrote:
DOT Aviation Enforcement Office is out with a second enforcement notice after receiving 25,000 consumer complaints during March and April (vs regular 1,500) over consumer issues related to ticket refunds.

Department reminds airlines they have an obligation to provide a refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels or significantly changes the passenger’s flight. DOT notes airlines have developed their own interpretations of "cancelation" and "significant change" and expects carriers to honor reasonable interpretations in implementing their refund obligations.

It also notes airlines that retroactively amend their refund policies that affect consumers negatively can be interpreted as unfair or deceptive practices.

DOT also says airlines must process refunds in a timely manner - which it defines as within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid
by cash or check.


https://www.transportation.gov/sites/do ... 020%29.pdf

=

Personally, until the DOT actually starts assessing significant fines against the airlines, it seems they will continue to play with consumers and sit on the money as long as they can.

I'm one of those 25,000 complaints. I won't name the airline, but the frequent changes related to refund policies is completely ridiculous. I'm not sure how it's acceptable to continually move the goal posts, particularly when so many Americans are currently out of work and might be relying on clawing back some of these refunds. I place some level of blame on the DOT rules for being overly vague, but perhaps it's purposely vague? In any event, redefining the term "cancellation" is fairly unscrupulous, to say the least. I agree that it's unlikely the DOT will pursue meaningful action anytime soon, which I suppose leaves it to customers to take their chances by filing credit card disputes. They've already taken tax dollars to keep their operations running, so they're double-dipping on the American taxpayers at this point.
 
gwrudolph
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Wed May 13, 2020 3:55 pm

EA CO AS wrote:
LAXintl wrote:
DOT also says airlines must process refunds in a timely manner - which it defines as within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash or check.


The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.


I have an idea: Put some of the employees who are basically being paid by the taxpayers to sit at home with full salary and benefits on refund processing. If the airline is running at 5% capacity, there should be plenty of resources available to process refunds
 
MSPNWA
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Wed May 13, 2020 4:18 pm

Until they start fining airlines, their words are hollow. Time for the DOT to take action, not give consumers false hope. The disgusting behavior they've allowed and enabled is now on their hands. They are just as guilty as the airlines stealing the consumer's money.

Ultimately I think what this should teach consumers is that government protections are subject to the whim of the regulator. Not even the government has the virtue to uphold rules when push come to shove.
 
737max8
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Wed May 13, 2020 4:26 pm

My flight to Japan was canceled by Delta in mid March. I just received my refund last week. All by Credit Card.

7 days seems a little tough, but 45ish days was a little extreme!!!
The thoughts and opinions expressed in my comments do not represent that of any airline or affiliate.
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WayexTDI
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Wed May 13, 2020 7:02 pm

toltommy wrote:
gwrudolph wrote:
In profitable or turbulent times, U.S. airline policies and the implementation of them are so one-sided. Doesn’t seem to matter whether they are making or losing $2b a year.

Anyone wonder why they are one of the most distrusted and complained about industries in the U.S.


Oh those awful airlines. The consumer demands ever cheaper airfare, and has gotten it. Look at the DOT data. Average airfares, when adjusted for inflation, are cheaper than they were 20 years ago. Including fees. But if it means one less bathroom on board, 30 inches pitch instead of 31, or that a refund doesn't come as quickly as they think it should? The airlines are evil I tell ya, just evil!!!!

Funny, I don't recall the IRS having a 7 day turnaround on refunds. But then again, the government usually has its own set of rules....

You're kidding, right? You enter in a contract with an airline when you buy a ticket, you pay up front for a flight 3 months down the road, they hold your money; now, the airline unilaterally breaches the contract by cancelling the flight (be it for understandable reasons or not) and they take forever to pay you back?
You don't see the one side advantage here???
 
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usdcaguy
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Wed May 13, 2020 9:08 pm

gwrudolph wrote:
EA CO AS wrote:
LAXintl wrote:
DOT also says airlines must process refunds in a timely manner - which it defines as within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash or check.


The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.


I have an idea: Put some of the employees who are basically being paid by the taxpayers to sit at home with full salary and benefits on refund processing. If the airline is running at 5% capacity, there should be plenty of resources available to process refunds


In most cases, airlines are offering all kinds of unpaid leave options anyway. If the carriers are backlogged in processing refunds, they should call agents back to work, pay overtime as needed and have them get the work done.

As already stated, this entire fiasco is really the DOT's fault for not enforcing the rules as strictly as they should. The best the DOT does is fine carriers for not accommodating disabled passengers or for holding passengers on the runway too long, which has definitely made a difference since the early 2000's. The stats they publish on different aspects of customer service are helpful, but that only benefits passengers if one airline decides to best the rest and brag about it, which is what Delta has done. So basically, the DOT provides only minimal benefit to consumers. Financial protection outside of denied boarding cases remains to be seen. That they have actually said something to carriers about the lack of refunds is something, but they need to enforce rules swiftly and consistently so that consumers benefit in real time.
 
jetwet1
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Thu May 14, 2020 2:04 am

The DOT isn't the one that will cause the airlines to change, it will be a lawsuit, some lawyer is going to wise up to the mass breach of contract and form a class action.

The other thing the airlines have to worry about is turning over the name of turning over the name etc of every customer affect, that is going to turn into one heck of a marketing list.
 
rajincajun01
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Thu May 14, 2020 12:03 pm

gwrudolph wrote:
EA CO AS wrote:
LAXintl wrote:
DOT also says airlines must process refunds in a timely manner - which it defines as within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash or check.


The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.


I have an idea: Put some of the employees who are basically being paid by the taxpayers to sit at home with full salary and benefits on refund processing. If the airline is running at 5% capacity, there should be plenty of resources available to process refunds

That’s not even close to how it works. Union employees like pilots and flight attendants can’t just walk into accounting and start issuing refunds or working calls for reservations.
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bennett123
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Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Thu May 14, 2020 12:21 pm

What is the situation re refunds or vouchers/re booking if they are in CH11?.
 
ben175
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Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 12:44 pm

Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Thu May 14, 2020 12:26 pm

After six emails back and forth I finally convinced Thai to give me a refund after they cancelled two of my upcoming flights in June. They have told me a refund will take a MINIMUM of 180 days!
 
Craiger88
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Joined: Sat Mar 16, 2019 1:28 pm

Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Thu May 14, 2020 12:46 pm

A month waiting now for a British Airways refund for a cancelled flight. All on a credit card.
 
Pontius
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:19 pm

Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Thu May 14, 2020 1:24 pm

Screw 'em. After a month of politely asking DY for a refund I filed a charge back with the credit card company. Let them figure out the paperwork, or not.
 
gwrudolph
Posts: 425
Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2008 3:46 pm

Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Thu May 14, 2020 6:41 pm

rajincajun01 wrote:
gwrudolph wrote:
EA CO AS wrote:

The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.


I have an idea: Put some of the employees who are basically being paid by the taxpayers to sit at home with full salary and benefits on refund processing. If the airline is running at 5% capacity, there should be plenty of resources available to process refunds

That’s not even close to how it works. Union employees like pilots and flight attendants can’t just walk into accounting and start issuing refunds or working calls for reservations.


I know I know. Sadly, it’s just the customer’s problem. The same customer who is the taxpayer supporting their continued employment without work.
 
WayexTDI
Posts: 1706
Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2018 4:38 pm

Re: DOT warns airlines (again) over timely customer refunds

Thu May 14, 2020 7:34 pm

rajincajun01 wrote:
gwrudolph wrote:
EA CO AS wrote:

The DOT also knows that airlines' accounting departments are not staffed to handle the massive wave of refund requests that have been received in the past 60 days, and has been advising carriers - via their individual DOT liaisons - that they are being lenient on enforcement of these timelines because of the unprecedented volume of requests, which is not unreasonable, IMHO.


I have an idea: Put some of the employees who are basically being paid by the taxpayers to sit at home with full salary and benefits on refund processing. If the airline is running at 5% capacity, there should be plenty of resources available to process refunds

That’s not even close to how it works. Union employees like pilots and flight attendants can’t just walk into accounting and start issuing refunds or working calls for reservations.

Just another example (as if we needed one) of the lack of flexibility unions bring into the workforce... Just saying...

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