Weiser urges U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate Frontier Airlines consumer complaints
Consumers report losing thousands of dollars in flight credits due to unfair policies and deceptive practices
Sept. 1, 2020 (DENVER, Colo.)—Attorney General Phil Weiser today urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to investigate Frontier Airlines after consumers from Colorado and 29 other states contacted his office with reports that the airline engaged in in unfair or deceptive practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to Secretary Chao, Weiser urges the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to examine Frontier’s flight change policies and customer service practices during the pandemic, and to use its authority under federal law to order Frontier to stop any unfair and deceptive practices and, where appropriate, consider civil penalties.
“The law requires airlines like Frontier to treat consumers fairly and honestly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we received more complaints about Frontier’s conduct—failing to honor its commitment to provide refunds—than any other company. Companies cannot be allowed to take advantage of consumers during this time and must be held accountable for deceptive and unfair conduct,” Weiser said. “By raising our concerns with USDOT and asking it to investigate and enforce the law, we are requesting a collaboration to protect consumers during this globally precarious time.”
Since March 2020, the Attorney General’s Office has received and reviewed more than 100 complaints about Frontier from consumers in Colorado and 29 other states—more than any other company during that time. Many of the complaints concerned Frontier’s failure to provide refunds, not giving travelers a way to promptly redeem flight credits or vouchers, and not helping them when they called to try to resolve the issues.
Federal law and USDOT regulations require airlines to provide refunds when they cancel or significantly change or delay flights. That requirement includes circumstances that are out of the airlines’ control, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions. As for Frontier, consumers report that the airline declined to do so, violating federal law.
For most consumers who cancelled their reservations as concern began to grow about contracting or spreading COVID-19 during travel, Frontier offered flight credits that expired within 90 days of the cancellation. But consumers reported to the Attorney General’s Office that, even if they did try to redeem their credits within those 90 days, they were often unable to do so because of Frontier’s error-prone website and lack of timely and responsive customer service.
Then, when consumers tried to have these issues resolved, they reported being frequently disconnected mid-call or being put on hold for hours. Some were told that if they wanted an extension on the 90-day expiration of their credits, that they should call back closer to the expiration date. Then, when they did so, Frontier declined to extend the credit expiration date.
Consumers said the frequent delays and disconnections cost them dozens of hours and often thousands of dollars in flight credits.
Weiser said the quantity and nature of the complaints received provide reason to believe that Frontier violated federal law and USDOT regulations by engaging in various practices that cause consumers financial and psychological harm and meet the department’s criteria for being “unfair” or “deceptive.” Under federal law, USDOT can seek civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation.
The USDOT is best suited to take action to protect consumers because of its expertise and experience enforcing federal aviation consumer protections, and Weiser says his office is ready to work with and support an investigation to address the airline’s conduct.
“We urge you to carefully review Frontier’s practices and, if you find such practices to be unfair or deceptive, to use your authority to protect consumers. Our office is prepared to work with you to support a thorough examination of Frontier’s practices and ensure consumers are protected during this precarious time,” Weiser concluded.