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Canadian airlines refusing cash refunds for COVID-19 cancellations

Last Updated Mar 27, 2020 at 10:07 am EDT

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Have your flight plans been grounded because of the COVID-19 pandemic? You’re not alone. Canadians across the country are currently fighting with major airlines to get their money back after flights were cancelled.

Many airlines are offering vouchers for future trips but not cash back. It’s a situation that’s left passengers coast-to-coast furious and floating around in a legal grey zone.

This week the Canadian Transportation Agency weighed in on their website, admitting their recently released air passenger bill of rights legislation doesn’t address the “the sorts of worldwide mass flight cancellations that have taken place over recent weeks as a result of the pandemic.”

When it comes to COVID-19 refunds the CTA highlighted the importance to “strike a fair and sensible balance between passenger protection and airlines’ operational realities.” It goes on to say that “generally speaking, an appropriate approach in the current context could be for airlines to provide affected passengers with vouchers or credits for future travel.”

Air Passenger Rights advocate Gabor Lukacs believes the CTA’s statement “deliberately and knowingly” misleads the public. He tells CityNews the CTA’s statement is being “portrayed” by airlines as a legal binding document but it’s not.

CityNews reached out to the Canadian Transportation Agency and asked them if they had concerns about how their online opinion post might be interpreted. CTA communications staff had yet to respond.

Lukacs is adamant, “The law is clear and unambiguous that a full refund to the original form of payment is owed to passengers. It has been confirmed in numerous legally binding decisions by the CTA.”

For passengers hoping to have their flights fully refunded, Lukacs advises you to “insist on receiving a full refund to the original form of payment, and to open a dispute/chargeback with their credit cards if necessary.”

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