Since the Covid-19 outbreak, both airlines and travellers have been left in a scramblebecause of government-imposed emergency border closures and travel restrictions.By mid-March, Air Canada stock was down 30.5%. Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) has also announced, due to the overwhelming number of complains received, the tribunal has paused all air dispute resolution activities until June 30, 2020. The pandemic has left thousands of Canadians in search of refunds for cancelled flights, but instead of getting their money back, airlines are compensating customers with transferrable two-year vouchers.
What Are You Entitled To If Your Flight Is Cancelled?
Our government and the CTA were adamant in statingthat it is important to “strike a fair and sensible balance between passenger protection and airlines’ operational realities.”Following a public backlash, the tribunal has since clarified that if passengers think they are entitled to refunds for flights cancelled resulting from COVID-19, and do not want to accept a voucher, they may exercise that right. However, Air Canada and other smaller Canadian airline companies are taking a different stance. According to the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, SOR/19-150, if the cancellation or denial of boarding is due to a medical emergency, the carrier’s only obligations to customers are to communicate the reason for cancellation/delay; provide alternate travel arrangements; and present information on the recourse and compensation available under the circumstances.There is no wording undersubsections 10(1)(h) and (3) of the APPR that compels monetary compensation when delay, cancellation or denial of boarding is due to situations outside of the carrier’s control.
Compounding the problem is that many who hoped that their travel insurance would provide a peace of mind and compensation for Covid-19 related cancellations aremistaken.Insurance providers explain the reason why Covid-19 claims are being denied is because many travel insurance policies now have a built-in pandemic exclusion clause,while some providers are arguing that COVID-19 no longer falls under thecategory of “unexpected circumstances”.
On the brighter side, if you purchased a flight ticket via credit card, you may be able tofile a complaint through your credit card company advancing the argument that you paid for a service that you did not receive. Generally, an airline carrier must abide by the following:
- Air Passenger Protection Regulations;
- Rules set by the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Montreal Convention; and
- The guidelines, terms and conditions as set by the airlines in their Tariff, which is essentially the contract between you and the airline when you buy a ticket.
There are also success stories where customers did eventually receive monetary compensation, but onlyafter having gone through a Kafkaesque complaints process.
Understandably, customers are now in more vulnerable and difficult situations than ever before. Thousands of Canadians have signed the petition urging our government to follow the American and EU’s lead in implementing an industry-wide provision mandating passenger reimbursements. However, there is no definitive date as to when the regulation may come into force. If you or someone you know needs legal help in advancing a trip cancellation claim, MEHDI AU LLP is a full-service law firm that serves clients across the GTA and Ontario.
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