If you were hoping to receive a refund for a COVID-19 flight cancellation, you may be out of luck. According to an updated policy from the Canadian Transportation Agency, airlines are not required to offer passengers a monetary refund for flights cancelled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the government body says that a travel credit should be acceptable.
Unlike travellers in Europe and the U.S.A., Canadians are unlikely to be eligible for COVID-19 related travel refunds, according to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).
On March 25, the CTA, which operates under the authority of Parliament, explained on their website that existing rules would not apply to the COVID-19 outbreak.
While previous terms had required airlines to provide refunds for “localized and short-term disruptions,” the CTA argues that this is not applicable, as the pandemic has closed borders and largely disrupted the majority of air travel.
“None contemplated the sorts of worldwide mass flight cancellations that have taken place over recent weeks as a result of the pandemic,” the CTA explained.
The agency added that airlines trying to refund all of their passengers, at a time when their capacity to operate has been affected, would seriously “threaten their economic viability.”
“It's important to consider how to strike a fair and sensible balance between passenger protection and airlines' operational realities in these extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances,” the agency added.
Information for Travellers During #COVID19 Pandemic The @CTA_gc offers a guide listing changes & how air passenger… https://t.co/Ho99DUFg9B— CTA.gc.ca (@CTA.gc.ca)1584575540.0
This comes as airline passengers across the European Union, as well as throughout the U.S.A. have been protected by their respective governments.
Back in March, the European Commission declared that all airlines must offer refunds for cancelled flights due to COVID-19, as laid out in its EU passenger rights regulations.
Last week the American Department of Transportation made a similar move, also ordering airlines to offer refunds for flights recently postponed or cancelled.
"The obligation of airlines to provide refunds … does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier's control," the U.S. agency explained.
For now, Canada’s leading airline operators, including Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat, are only offering travel credit for cancelled flights, rather than monetary refunds.
According to CBC News, the CTA’s position is not legally binding, and customers have the right to take further action.
For example, one B.C. woman has launched a class action lawsuit against five major Canadian airlines, calling for them to provide cash refunds to those who are unhappy with travel credit alone.
In the meantime, Canada’s Finance Minister is expected to announce plans to bail out the airline sector, which has suffered a “devastating” blow due to the pandemic.