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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Canadian Transport Agency states airlines can provide vouchers instead of refunds

The Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) issued a statement yesterday in regards to vouchers that are being issued by airlines instead of refunds. Essentially they are allowing airlines to go ahead with the voucher route and not issue refunds to customers for the time being. Here is an excerpt from the statement:
The legislation, regulations, and tariffs were developed in anticipation of relatively localized and short-term disruptions. None contemplated the sorts of worldwide mass flight cancellations that have taken place over recent weeks as a result of the pandemic. 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.

On the one hand, passengers who have no prospect of completing their planned itineraries with an airline's assistance should not simply be out-of-pocket for the cost of cancelled flights. On the other hand, airlines facing huge drops in passenger volumes and revenues should not be expected to take steps that could threaten their economic viability.

While any specific situation brought before the CTA will be examined on its merits, the CTA believes 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, as long as these vouchers or credits do not expire in an unreasonably short period of time (24 months would be considered reasonable in most cases).
I believe with this statement there is still room to get a refund as this isn't a set in stone decision but you may not get your refund right away. As it mentioned in the statement there needs to be a balance between the consumers and the airlines. The airlines have very little to no cash flow at this time and if they refunded every single traveller they would be in dire straights. However some travellers may also need that money back in their pockets right now, especially those who have no need for future travel. In that case you can call the airline and push for refund but expect to get push back based on this CTA statement. If you don't need the cash right right away you can take the voucher now and then you could go for a refund in the future just as WestJet is stating to their customers:
We are not processing refunds to original form of payment at this time. The full value of your flight has been refunded to a WestJet travel bank (for WestJet bookings) or WestJet Dollars account (for WestJet Vacations bookings), which is valid for 24 months from date of issue. If you prefer a refund to original form of payment, we will provide information about when that can be requested at a later date.
Overall this is news I know lots of our readers don't want to hear right now and if you want a refund and aren't getting one no matter how much you push you'll have to wait to proceed via the CTA as they have suspended all dispute resolution activities until June 30.

You can read the entire CTA statement here

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