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

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

Langford and Vancouver Island Economic Alliance are partnering to provide local businesses with one-year Island Good memberships. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Economic Alliance)
Langford offering local businesses free Island Good membership

Island Good label helps consumers identify local products

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered Langford teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

The speculation and vacancy tax raised about $1.21 million in Sidney and North Saanich combined. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich and Sidney property owners paid $1.21 million in speculation and vacancy tax

Speculation and vacancy tax raised 6.5 million in Greater Victoria

Saanich parks staff will be applying a herbicide called Garlon XRT in Sayward Hill Park between Jan. 18 to 29 to control the invasive species English holly and hawthorn. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Herbicide used to target ‘priority’ invasive species in Saanich park

Treatment applied to English holly, hawthorn stumps, in Sayward Hill Park

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Most Read