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

Police were called to the scene of 198A Street and 81st Avenue on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Curtis Kreklau/Special to Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Possible shots fired on Langley/Surrey border Thursday evening

Police had one vehicle towed and gathered evidence at the scene

Snow is forecasted to appear in parts of Metro Vancouver this weekend. (Black Press Media files)
WEATHER: Flurries in the forecast for Sunday

Langley could see snow throughout the week starting Jan. 23

Flip City’s Elise Van Harmelen at the 2017 Langley Invitational at the Langley Events Centre. Flip City is one of 11 local sports groups getting COVID relief funding. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley sports clubs get COVID relief funding

The province is giving cash to groups hit hard by shutdowns

The first tree – a Sitka spruce – in the second phase of Fort Langley’s Memory Grove was planted on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 21. (Kurt Alberts/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Second phase of Memory Grove planted at Fort Langley

The first trees started going into the ground on Thursday, Jan. 21

B.C. MInisterial Order 425 and the list of permitted exemptions to wearing face masks in retail businesses and other public spaces. (B.C. Government website)
LETTER: Langley newspaper criticized for doing story on maskless encounter

Local letter writer shares opinion on video of unmasked man in grocery store

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

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

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read