OTTAWA, 13 April 2021 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today welcomed the agreement reached between the federal government and Air Canada to provide it financial support, while obliging the airline to refund passengers due to cancelled pandemic flights. PIAC, on behalf of airline customers affected by the pandemic, has demanded refunds for all flights, including “non-refundable” tickets: No Refund = No Bailout.
“We are pleased that the Federal government has stood by consumers to ensure those who had to cancel flights or whose flights were cancelled due to COVID-19 will get full refunds,” stated John Lawford, PIAC Executive Director and General Counsel.
“However, we caution customers to immediately inform themselves about the process to get refunds as there are time limits and conditions,” he added.
According to Air Canada, it will offer the option of a refund to eligible customers who purchased non-refundable fares or who voluntarily cancelled their travel due to COVID-19, since 1 February 2020. Money for the refunds comes from a government loan: “$1.4 billion in the form of an unsecured credit facility tranche to support customer refunds of non-refundable tickets.”
Please note that Air Canada has provided a 60 day deadline to apply for refunds. Air Canada states: “Customers can request a refund online at www.aircanada.com/refund until June 12, 2021.”
Information released so far suggests that customers will need to take positive steps to apply for the refunds, that is, refunds will not be applied automatically. Also unclear is whether passengers who have already applied for a refund will have to re-apply under this new procedure.
PIAC also cautions consumers that from 13 April 2021 forward, Air Canada will institute a new refunds and cancellations policy: “Air Canada will provide customers an option for a refund to the original form of payment in instances where Air Canada cancels their flight or reschedules the departure time by more than three hours, irrespective of the reason. Air Canada customers will also have the option of accepting an ACTV or Aeroplan points with a 65% bonus. For customers who make voluntary changes, normal fare rules will apply. Air Canada has also extended its existing goodwill policy so that customers can make a one-time change without a fee for all new or existing bookings made through May 31, 2021 for original travel until May 31, 2022.”
Finally, PIAC notes that this refund program, as of now, just covers Air Canada; customers of other airlines must wait to see whether the government concludes similar bailout deals with other carriers (e.g., Westjet, Air Transat, Sunwing, Porter, etc.) and whether they will receive refunds and how they plan to provide passenger refunds. PIAC will monitor developments.
For more information, please contact:
Executive Director and General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
613-562-4002 ext. 125 (New)
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