TAP Air Portugal is No. 1 — in DOT refund complaints

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Airplane on tarmac [Credit: Senohrabek/Shutterstock.com]
The DOT received nearly 2,600 complaints in November related to refunds. Photo Credit: Senohrabek/Shutterstock.com

The DOT received nearly 2,600 complaints in November related to refunds. 

Leading the way was TAP Air Portugal. 

Out of those 2,573 complaints, 273 were against TAP. United, with 196, was the target of the second most refund complaints and Air Canada was the subject of the third most complaints, at 174. 

Related reports: Flight delays are down, but refund complaints are still up

November is the most recent month for which the DOT has reported consumer complaints. 

In an emailed statement, TAP acknowledged that it has had a backlog of refunds and said that it, "sincerely apologizes." 

The carrier said the backlog has been a result of two factors: its decision to handle all refunds for flights canceled due to Covid-19 internally, including refunds on tickets sold through agents; and capacity-constrained IT systems. 

Related report: Evolving airline refund policies confuse travel advisors

"Tap has reenforced its customer service teams, adopted automatic procedures for processing refund requests through vouchers and organized a specialized team to process refunds in the form of ticket payments," the carrier said. "Requests continue to be approved and refunded. We appreciate our customers' and trade partners' patience. We encourage any agents who have any pending refunds older than three months to reach out to their key account manager for assistance."

The two other top-three airline refund complaint targets in November adopted controversial policies during the pandemic.

Air Canada continues to define all Covid-19-related flight cancellations as outside its control and therefore not subject to refunds for those who don't hold a refundable ticket. The policy is in conflict with DOT requirements for flights that touch the U.S. 

United experimented with various refund policies during the first month of the pandemic, including a short-lived one that delayed the disbursement of refunds for canceled international flights until at least 12 months from the time of purchase. 

The carrier's website currently advises customers who were denied a refund early in the pandemic that they could now be eligible for one. 

"If you experienced a significant United schedule disruption and were denied a refund between March 1, 2020, and June 6, 2020, and no longer wish to use your travel credit, please fill out the refund form and we will review your claim to determine if you are now eligible for a refund," the site says.

The 2,573 airline refund complaints DOT received in November was up from just 97 a year ago. Still, the figure was way down from early in the pandemic. The department logged nearly 18,000 refund-related complaints against airlines last May. 

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