FILE – Travellers are seen at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadians’ frustration mounts over lack of refunds for flights cancelled during pandemic

A trio of petitions with more than 77,000 signatures are calling for full refunds to be implemented

Canadians are increasingly showing signs of being fed up with airlines, which are offering travel vouchers rather than refunds to passengers whose flights have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A trio of petitions with more than 77,000 signatures are calling for full refunds to be implemented before financial aid is handed out to airlines, two of which were presented to the House of Commons over the past 10 days.

None of Canada’s major airlines are offering to return cash to passengers for the hundreds of thousands of flight cancellations since mid-March, opting instead for 24-month vouchers.

Pressed on the issue Thursday at his daily media conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will look at the issue further.

“We need to have some very careful discussions with airlines, with the air travel sector and, indeed, with Canadians who are concerned to try and figure out a way forward where we can ensure that Canadians are treated fairly and our industry remains there for when our economy picks up again,” Trudeau told reporters.

READ MORE: No laws in B.C. to force businesses to offer refunds, even during a pandemic

Canada is an outlier among Western countries on the issue of refunds, with the European Union and the United States requiring airlines to offer them. The voucher offer has left some customers frustrated over a service they paid for but have not received. Some had snagged good deals but now worry they’ll have to shell out more for the equivalent trip by the time they use their travel credit.

“If we accept the vouchers, they clearly say that if the next ticket we buy costs more, we have to pay them for the difference. And if it costs less, they keep the remaining money,” said Mathieu Bouchard, who was planning to fly on Air Transat to Orlando, Fla., for an April trip to Disney World with his wife and two young children when the COVID-19 pandemic swept away their plans.

“We are not even sure we will be able to use the ticket in the time frame.”

READ MORE: Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

The pleas of passengers may have fallen on deaf ears. Last week Trudeau announced that the country’s largest employers — which include Air Canada, WestJet Airlines Ltd. and Transat AT — will be eligible for federal loans to help weather the COVID-19 economic crisis.

The loans start at $60 million for companies with at least $300 million in annual revenues under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility program. The LEEFF allows Ottawa to take an ownership stake in public companies — Air Canada is publicly traded — and bar executives from earning more than $1 million.

Advocates say that Canadians who have lost their jobs or closed their businesses need the refund money “desperately,” along with senior citizens and people with health problems — all of whom may never have an opportunity to redeem the 24-month vouchers.

“By offering vouchers for future travel the airlines are not meeting the wishes of their passengers and are in fact knowingly creating a coronavirus profit centre by using the money they are holding as interest-free loans,” reads a petition launched by Toronto resident Bob Scott and presented to Parliament last week by Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi.

“The proceeds from these unredeemed coupons will flow directly to the airlines’ bottom line,” states the petition, whose online version counts more than 15,000 signatures.

Carriers are reeling from the virtual shutdown of commercial flight around the globe as borders remain closed and air travel demand hovers at record lows.

READ MORE: At least three years until ‘cataclysmic’ virus fallout recede, Air Canada exec says

Air Canada has grounded about 225 planes and 95 per cent of its capacity after losing more than $1 billion last quarter. WestJet has cancelled all flights outside of the country until July 4 and Air Transat, Porter Airlines and Sunwing Airlines Ltd. have halted all trips until late June.

For Mathieu Bouchard, concerns like the plight of the air industry feel far away. His family’s planned Disney World trip — a sequel to one three years ago — was supposed to be a throwback to a memorable visit for the family.

“What my little girl liked most about Epcot is the big sphere. She wanted to take it and bring it home,” Bouchard said.

Now he would gladly settle for a refund.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Air TravelCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Summerland once had Old English theme

Design guidelines were introduced in late 1980s

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Crews repair damaged lakefront walkway in Summerland

Flooding in 2017 and 2018 took toll on popular walking path

COVID-19: Keremeos legion reopening with reduced hours

Legion’s treasurer encourages locals to continue their longstanding support during the pandemic

COVID-19 ‘not a death sentence’ says Penticton woman after seeing senior mother recover

Cancer, blindness, a fractured hip, dementia, and COVID-19 not enough to bring Betty Jukes down

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Vancouver Foundation grants benefit Okanagan-Shuswap residents

Grants of up to $500 available for ideas that connect people socially or involve sharing skills

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Water quality advisory rescinded for Central Okanagan system

Turbidity levels improve enough to rescind advisory issued for Killiney Beach system May 11

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

UPDATE: Two sent to hospital following Okanagan highway accident

Drivers in head-on collision air-lifted to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries

Most Read