Frontier CEO Says Airlines Don’t Have the Tech to Comply With Refund and Junk Fee Rules

Skift Take

Frontier CEO Barry Biffle is the latest airline executive to voice some concerns about the feasibility of the Biden administration’s latest rule on refunds and junk fees.

Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said he believed the U.S. airline industry doesn’t have the technology to comply with the latest Department of Transportation rules.  

“I think the way they’ve written it, I think the reason why some of the industry’s having a challenge is because I think there’s not the technology in place today to do exactly what they’re looking for,” Biffle said during a call with analysts on Thursday. “But hopefully we can all get there.”

The DOT recently rolled out a set of rules that mandate airlines to refund passengers if a flight is significantly delayed or canceled and to disclose all “junk fees.” The airline industry hasn’t warmed up to the new set of rules, with trade group Airlines for America criticizing the DOT for creating these rules “without collaboration.”

Biffle said the airline was revamping its website and app, adding that he believes it would address the issue of junk fees. 

The new DOT rule on junk fees requires airlines to disclose all baggage, cancellation and change fees; explain fee policies before ticket purchase; share fee information with third parties; and tell customers that seats are guaranteed. 

The rule also prohibits airlines from advertising any promotional discounts on airfare without disclosing the carrier-imposed fees. 

The Frontier CEO added that he didn’t expect the latest Department of Transportation rules to impact the carrier’s bottom line. 

“We refunded over $300 million last year, all in these same categories,” Biffle said. “We believe largely we’re compliant with what they’re looking for. We don’t see any financial impact from this.”

New DOT Rules Met With Confusion From Travel Industry

Biffle is the latest airline executive to voice concerns about the enforceability of the new DOT rules. American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said during an analyst call that he thought the automatic refunds rule had some “gray” areas. Travel agents have also said that they don’t have the tools to fully comply with the rules, either. 

“What has happened here is that the Department [of Transportation] — in their efforts to get transparency to consumers — have placed a liability on our member companies and all ticket agents of all sizes, but have not provided us the tools to comply,” Laura Chadwick, the president and CEO of the Travel Technology Association told Skift. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg previously told reporters after a House hearing on Tuesday that he believed the rules could withstand legal challenges. 

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