You were looking forward to your dream vacation or nice little gateway before coronavirus – now travel restrictions are in place and your flight has been canceled.
Don’t count on the airline giving you a cash refund, but you will likely get a voucher, which has many people fighting mad.
Barb Mills with Tsawwassen Insurance said the Canadian Transportation Agency endorsed airlines not refunding passengers for flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 or other reasons outside an airline's control.
Mills noted airlines are only obliged to ensure passengers can complete their trip and are offering customers vouchers, adding most airlines are offering at least a year for people to use those vouchers.
The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says in the past, travel service providers usually provided consumers with refunds where the service provider was unable to provide service, but over the past month, that changed and they are now offering vouchers or credits that consumers can use for future travel.
On March 25, the Canadian Transportation Agency updated its endorsement of the use of vouchers or credits as an appropriate approach for Canada’s airlines as long as the vouchers or credits do not expire in an unreasonably short period of time.
“Travel insurers are advising policy holders that if you have been offered this type of full credit, or voucher for future use by an airline, train or other travel provider, in many instances, under the terms of your insurance policy you will not be considered to have suffered an insurable loss,” a news release by the association notes.
The association also notes disputes over refunds and credits should be directed to travel service providers, transportation carriers or the Canadian Transportation Agency.
Airlines already have a fight on their hands, meanwhile, as a proposed class-action lawsuit targeting airlines that only offered vouchers, including Air Canada, Air Transat, West Jet, Sunwing and Swoop, has been filed. The suit claims that the airlines should not be allowed to hold onto customers’ money indefinitely for a purchase that they may or may not make in the future.
The advocacy group Air Passenger Rights says the transportation agency has given the false impression the initial endorsement of vouchers was a legally binding determination.