Colorado’s attorney general asked the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday to investigate complaints that Frontier Airlines failed to refund the cost of flights cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak and made it virtually impossible for people to use vouchers for other flights during the pandemic.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Attorney General Phil Weiser said his office had received more than 100 complaints from Colorado and 29 other states about the Denver-based low cost carrier since March, more than any other company.
People said that Frontier refused to issue them a refund when flights were canceled because of the pandemic, which Weiser said violated department regulations that refunds are due even when cancellations are due to circumstances beyond airlines' control. Others who received vouchers for use on future flights after voluntarily canceling their travel plans were unable to redeem them. Some were rejected by the airline's website and were unable to extend the 90-day time limit for using them or were limited to using the vouchers on only one flight, he wrote. Still others who sought help through the airline's customer service line were put on hold for hours and were disconnected regularly, he said.
Weiser said that the Department of Transportation was in the best position to investigate the complaints and said it should issue fines of up to $2,500 per violation when appropriate.
"Companies cannot be allowed to take advantage of consumers during this time and must be held accountable for deceptive and unfair conduct,” he said in a statement.
Frontier said it has remained in full compliance with department rules and regulations regarding flight changes, cancellations and refunds.
“Throughout the pandemic, Frontier Airlines has acted in good faith to care for our passengers compassionately and fairly,” the company said in a statement.
Complaints about getting refunds from airlines surged this spring. In May, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asked airlines to be “as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship.”
In the department’s May air travel consumer report, the most recent available, Frontier had the third highest rate of overall complaints after Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines. The report only counts complaints from customers who go through the trouble of filing a complaint with the department, not those who only complain to an airline.