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US airlines slapped with fines after violating rules geared to protect consumers

Three airlines from the United States have been made to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines over government claims of violations of rules aimed at protecting consumers.

The Transportation Department announced the violations and the fines that were slapped against American Airlines Group, Delta Air Lines and Frontier Airlines in documents that were made public last week.

The findings come from different inquiries made by the Transportation Department.

American Airlines was fined $250,000 after it was determined that they failed to issue timely refunds to passengers during the first half of 2015.

Transportation Department officials began to look into the company last year after receiving several complaints from consumers over delays in receiving refunds from the airline. For example, regulations call for airlines to issue refunds within seven business days when a passenger pays with a credit card.

“We took proactive steps to address refund delays some customers experienced in 2015 due to a systems integration issue after the merger with US Airways, including investments to improve processing times”, said Shannon Gilson, a Spokeswoman for American Airlines.

American and U.S. Airways merged in late 2013, making it the world’s biggest airline.

Delta also agreed to pay $200,000 to resolve the government’s ruling that the airline underreported the number of ill-treated baggage complaints it received from its passengers. The Transportation Department obliges airlines to report such complaints on a monthly basis and uses the information to compose airline rankings in reports aimed at consumers.

Delta, in a statement, said it instantly updated its policy on damaged bags once its attention was called by the government last year and has invested in providing “full transparency to the status and location of checked bags” through its FlyDelta app.

However, the largest fine was handed to Frontier Airlines after it was hit by a $400,000 fine.

Officials found out that the airline compulsorily bumped passengers from overbooked flights without looking for volunteers or even providing proper compensation in a timely manner.

The government based their findings on about 200 complaints received by the company in 2014 and 2015.

It is outlined that airlines need to compensate passengers who have checked in and have a reserved seat on a flight, but are bumped involuntarily from an overbooked flight, what is known as “denied boarding compensation”. And the airline is required to pay passengers in cash or check that very same day.

Furthermore, the probe uncovered that Frontier failed to give disabled passengers with wheelchair assistance as needed to board or exit aircraft and get around the terminal.

Frontier did not admit or deny the government’s findings in the consent order with the Transportation Department, but stated that it makes “every effort” to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities. It also said that the vouchers it gives passengers who are bumped off its flights typically surpass the value of payouts required.

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