Legal battle looms as passengers seek refunds over vouchers from airlines in Canada
Though it's been weeks since travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders were put in place, airline customers continue to be disgruntled about shoddy customer service and a lack of refunds from major carriers.
Many of the industry's key players have been refusing to offer passengers refunds for flights cancelled (or not taken) due to the pandemic, and are instead issuing vouchers for travel at a later date, some of which expire in as soon as a year's time.
Advocacy group Air Passenger Rights has now commenced legal proceedings against the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) for "misguiding passengers into swallowing vouchers instead of demanding cash refunds, while benefiting airlines with billions in interest-free loans," as it states in its case overview.
The filing is based on a statement on vouchers that the CTA issued in March, in which it said that "an appropriate approach in the current context could be for airlines to provide affected passengers with vouchers or credits for future travel," with the only stipulation being that credits do not expire "in an unreasonably short period of time."
Canada’s airline regulator is accused of “misguiding passengers into swallowing vouchers instead of demanding cash refunds, while benefiting airlines with billions in interest-free loans.” @CTA_gc #passengerrights https://t.co/KSMSYND5IW— Ellen Roseman (@ellenroseman) May 8, 2020
Customers are enraged with the fact that full refunds are not being provided in light of the unprecedented circumstances, especially when many flights were cancelled by the airlines themselves due to the health crisis.
There is also the fact that many residents have been out of work and particularly strapped for cash these days, so could really use the extra hundreds in funds instead of a voucher for future flights.
Plus, a credit that expires isn't exactly useful when no one knows when it will be safe, or permitted, for people to travel again.
Why will Air Canada not issue my refund. I have paid for a family of four and I don’t want vouchers. It is disgraceful!!😡😡— Ramon (@RamonRazor65) May 6, 2020
Many are also saying that companies like Air Canada have still been charging them cancellation fees despite saying at one point that it was waiving them for some customers given the fact that various levels of government worldwide have directed people to avoid non-essential travel right now.
Air Canada is among the carriers that have completely suspended or drastically reduced service on nearly all of their routes given the understandably staggering decrease in demand for air travel.
The national airline reported a 2020 Q1 loss of $1 billion earlier this week, though it has qualified for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program and is also expecting flight volumes to ramp up as demand increases again around Christmas.
Same With my case they asked for $ 295 charges for one person and we booked for 3 family members and they are not ready to cancel / reduce the cancellation fees— Acharya (@Acharya58873323) May 7, 2020
This is really taking advantage of situation..
The National Airlines Council of Canada is now also asking the federal government for a financial bailout due being in, as Air Canada's CEO called it in the company's Q1 report, "the darkest period ever in the history of commercial aviation." Many people are also scrambling to sell off their airline stocks, a foreboding sign.
But, citizens are not exactly sympathetic with carriers' plight given the fact that they feel completely gouged by the giant companies (usually, but lately in particular).
Many are also questioning the magnitude of airlines' financial losses given that they have kept customer money without actually having to fly anyone anywhere or keep up with usual operation costs.
Wait wut ? They don't refund tickets, give vouchers that we cannot buy groceries with or pay bills, AND they now want Canadian taxpayers to bail them out?? Refund Canadians first, then we can talk about yet ANOTHER airline bailout #aircanada @MarcGarneauhttps://t.co/zu2yThSaJA— Paul Rose (be powerful - VOTE) (@Paul_R_Canada) May 4, 2020
Given that major carriers' customer service lines have been completely inundated with calls and complaints for months now, and that thousands have still not been able to secure a refund, it seems that would-be flyers may simply be out of luck.
Thankfully, organizations like Air Passenger Rights are still fighting for the rights of customers, and have provided a lot of information, such as legal precedents, to help travelers seeking a refund argue for their money back in these trying times.
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