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

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

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Following too closely

Maintaining a buffer in front of your vehicle gives you time to recover from inattention

Sonia Furstenau
Sonia Furstenau column: MLA vows to keep up the fight

COVID-19 continues to strain our communities

Heating cable laid in the cold frame, awaiting the layer of sand. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Greenhouse growing in the winter

I have a heating cable I’ve never used that I’m contemplating putting to work in the cold frame

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: If you don’t have anything nice to say…

Dear Sarah, the letter began. I hope you mail a note from… Continue reading

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Vees goalkeeper Yaniv Perets stands watch while Tyler Ho takes the puck around the back of the net on Nov. 7. The BCHL press release did not name the player who tested positive.(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees quarantining after player tests positive for COVID-19

The team, staff and billets are isolating while they are tested

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Most Read