By Joe Hoppe


International Consolidated Airlines Group's British Airways has been handed a $1.1 million fine by the U.S. government over claims it failed to provide timely refunds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Transportation Department said on Thursday that the U.K. flagship carrier failed to provide timely refunds to passengers for flights to and from the U.S. that it cancelled or significantly changed. British Airways will be credited $550,000 toward the penalty, given it paid out more than $40 million in refunds to customers with nonrefundable tickets in 2020 and 2021, the government agency said.

Between March and November 2020, British Airways' website instructed customers to contact it via phone to discuss refund options, including for rescheduled or abandoned flights, but consumers couldn't get through to customer service agents for several months over the period because the company failed to maintain adequate functionality of its customer service lines, the U.S. department said.

There was also no option to submit a refund through the website, the department said. Since March 2020, the Transportation Department said it has received more than 1,200 complaints about British Airways' refunds, adding that the carrier had received thousands more complaints and refund requests directly from customers.

British Airways said it acted lawfully at all times and offered customers the flexibility of rebooking travel on different dates, or claiming a refund if their flights were cancelled. It added that it has issued more than five million refunds since the start of the pandemic.

"We're very sorry that at the height of the unprecedented pandemic--when we were unfortunately forced to cancel thousands of flights and close some call centres due to government restrictions--our customers experienced slightly longer wait times to reach customer service teams," British Airways said.


Write to Joe Hoppe at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 02, 2023 03:33 ET (07:33 GMT)

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