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Video: The Battle for Refunds on Cancelled Flights

Here at Prince of Travel, we spend a fair bit of time and energy talking up Canada’s airlines for their products and loyalty programs. But there’s one regard in which our airlines have not covered themselves in glory in recent months – in fact, they’ve let people down en masse.

When the pandemic arrived on our doorstep in March 2020, travellers’ plans were affected all over the world. Governments shut down borders to slow the spread, while airlines cancelled flights or suspended operations in response.

However, when it comes to their obligations to provide customers with refunds on their flights, Canada’s airlines have adopted the self-serving strategy of withholding refunds and offering customers only a voucher for future travel (and in some cases an option to convert into rewards miles). Regardless of whether the airlines believe that these alternatives are sufficient, they fall short of their obligations under the law to provide refunds when they are requested.

To add insult to injury, when Canadians turned towards our national transportation agency to step in and provide oversight, the CTA stood with Canada’s big airlines over the interest of the average consumer. This is in spite of the actions of their global peers in the US, Europe, and Australia, who have all stood with the consumer and ordered their airlines to provide refunds.

In this video, we take a look at all the major developments so far in this unfortunate story. What is each party’s role in this fiasco, and who is most at fault? And what steps can you take to secure your refund if you are owed money from one of Canada’s airlines?

It’s time for Canada’s airlines and aviation authorities to step up and do the right thing: give people their money back on cancelled flights.

Without further ado, you can watch the video below:

 

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4 Comments
  1. Anon

    Hi Ricky,

    First off, great video. I love how you presented your information from many sides; consumer, airline, & CTA, and seemed to remain unbiased. Very well researched and stated, with great sources/references to back it up. I wish other articles/videos I’ve come across on the topic were even half as well researched and put together.

    Secondly, as a frequent traveler who is/was also owed money for tickets I couldn’t use & former employee at both the major Canadian airlines, I wanted to share a couple thoughts/tidbits of info that I was left thinking about after watching your video;

    1) From what I’ve been able to find in my research it seems that most US/AU/EU airlines were able to provide refunds right out of the gate largely in part due to billions of dollars in government relief for the airlines/aviation industry.

    I could be wrong on this, but as of the time of writing this, I don’t believe that any Canadian airline has received relief/bailout dollars yet. Given the Canadian airline industry as a whole is down on 90+% in business (compared to the same time last year) and hemorrhaging/losing millions of dollars a day as mentioned in public statements/videos by the airlines, I can understand why they are not able to give credit card refunds to everyone at this time, else they go bankrupt. The money just isn’t there, until/unless the Canadian aviation industry/airlines also receive billions in government relief.

    On that topic; I’ve heard via fellow would-be traveler’s social media posts online, refunds on eligible ticket types booked directly with the airline (excluding basic fares, etc.) are being processed back to their credit cards. It’s important to note that it is being done in small batches, currently primarily US/EU destinations for select travel dates – I believe at the moment it’s for April 2020, and that those passengers were being contacted directly with this option via the email provided at the time of booking.

    2) In my experience, WestJet travel bank credits (not WestJet dollars), in general, are transferable to anyone with a WestJet Rewards account – without a fee. The travel bank credit can also be used for anyone the credit holder wants, without needing to transfer it, through their WestJet Rewards account online, via the app, or by calling.

    1. Ricky

      Thanks for the detailed thoughts. The intention was definitely to cover the topic as impartially as possible while considering all parties’ rights and obligations.

      Your point about bailouts is also very salient. Looking at the big picture, we as consumers will need to bail out the airlines one way or another, it seems.

  2. Alex B

    Really well made, documented, and very clear video!
    Two questions:
    1) How do you document your request to the Airline for a refund, before you dispute the charge back? And how long do you wait after asking the Airline?
    2) What if you bought an all inclusive? We have a Club Med in October but I don’t expect the situation (or Canadian advisory) to change between now and then. I’m assuming the flight and hotel are not going to be canceled, therefore I can’t ask for a refund from CC as I’m the one refusing the service, based on Canadian advisory. Thanks!

    1. Ricky

      The advice given is to record all your calls with the airline (as Canada is a one-party consent jurisdiction), and wait 14 days for the airline to respond.

      If you’re the one who decides not to travel, then the case for a refund is less clear-cut but still present in the form of the Frustrated Contracts Act, which states that if fulfillment of a contract (the all-inclusive trip) is rendered impossible by an unforeseen supervening event (the pandemic and the travel advisory), then the contract can be voided. It will almost certainly take a legal case to resolve this, though, and not all travellers in this position would find that worthwhile.

Ricky Zhang

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