British Airways was fined $1.1 million Thursday by the USDOT for failing to refund travelers for flights to and from the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March 2020, USDOT has received over 1,200 complaints saying British Airways delayed refunds. IAG-owned British Airways refuted the allegations.
British Airways refunded over $40 million in nonrefundable tickets in 2020 and 2021. Therefore USDOT credited the penalty by $550,000. USDOT said the amount “establishes a strong deterrent to future similar unlawful practices by British Airways and other carriers.”
British Airways said it operated appropriately and allowed passengers to rebook or get refunds for missed flights.
British Airways failed to maintain customer support phone lines for months, according to USDOT.
The airline said Thursday that “at the height of the unprecedented pandemic – when we were unfortunately forced to cancel thousands of flights and close some call centers due to government restrictions – our customers experienced slightly longer wait times to reach customer service teams.”
USDOT fines airlines for late reimbursements.
LATAM Airlines Group (LTM.SN) and affiliates were penalized $1 million by USDOT last month for delayed refunds.
Since March 2020, USDOT has received over 750 complaints saying LATAM, Latin America’s largest airline, failed to refund U.S. trips.
In January, USDOT pledged to “deter future misconduct by seeking higher penalties that would not be viewed as simply a cost of doing business” for airlines violating consumer protection laws.