By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department said Monday that six airlines will pay $7.25 million in total fines and agreed to issue $622 million in passenger refunds as the agency vows to aggressively enforce consumer protections.

The enforcement actions helped ensure the six carriers paid required refunds “to hundreds of thousands of passengers who had their flights canceled or significantly changed,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters.

Buttigieg said under the settlements ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines was required to pay $222 million in refunds and will pay a $2.2 million fine, while Tata Group-owned Air India will pay $121.5 million in required refunds and a $1.4 million fine.

State-owned Portuguese airline TAP Portugal will make $126.5 million in required refunds and pay a $1.1 million penalty, and Colombian airline Avianca will pay $76.8 million in required refunds and pay a $750,000 fine.

El Al Israel Airlines will issue $61.9 million in required refunds and pay a $900,000 penalty, and Mexican airline Aeromexico will pay $13.6 million in required refunds and a $900,000 penalty.

“We have more enforcement actions and investigations underway,” Buttigieg said. The Transportation Department said it expects to issue additional orders assessing civil penalties this year, but has no refund probes pending against any other U.S. airline.

The department said its aviation consumer protection office has assessed $8.1 million in fines in 2022, the largest amount ever issued in a single year.

Buttigieg has pledged to crack down on airlines and proposed new regulations to boost consumer protections.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)