Travelers and travel agents “agonize” over airline reimbursement policies – Business News

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Natalie Rahey and Blair Skrupski were supposed to be standing under a wedding canopy in three weeks, hand in hand on a Caribbean beach surrounded by friends and family.

Instead, the Halifax couple had nothing but a travel voucher and a lighter bank statement after Air Canada Vacations canceled their flight – one of thousands cut in the middle of the closure almost total of the airline industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their wedding on the Riviera Maya in Mexico is on hold as they and their nearly three dozen guests struggle with the more than $ 50,000 that is now in an Air Canada account.

Rahey said his travel voucher – valid for the next 24 months – requires them to book again at the same resort for the same price or more over the next two years, even if cheaper options become available.

“If the cost of booking our wedding is more expensive, we have to pay more. But if it is less, we do not recover the difference. Air Canada must keep this money. And no refunds were offered, “said Rahey.

“The feeling of not being taken care of is simply incredibly disappointing. “

Travelers and travel agents are increasingly fed up with Canadian airline reimbursement policies and customer service in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, without knowing what conditions might be attached to it. a possible bailout for the sector in difficulty.

A petition asking Ottawa to refuse an aid package to any airline that does not reimburse customers for canceled flights now claims approximately 3,000 signatures.

Most Canadian carriers offer hundreds of millions of dollars in interest-free loans to airlines for flight reservations or vouchers – but not refunds – said Bob Scott, a resident from Toronto, which launched the petition last week.

“It is absolutely shameful,” he said. “I have never seen anything – anything – like the rage that rages against the airlines about it. “

Customers aren’t the only ones getting sick from the turbulence.

Travel agent Barbara Broomel says Air Canada has been “very difficult” to reach, leaving her torn as to whether a group of tourists should make their next payment of $ 6,000 for a European trip that could still be canceled .

“They ask me:” What are we doing? Do I have to make the final payment? “All of this is pending,” said Broomel, who is based near Buffalo, New York, and works with Canadian clients.

Faced with an unprecedented drop in travel demand, Air Canada has nevertheless worked with the federal government to overcome border closings and repatriate tens of thousands of Canadians stranded in places ranging from Morocco to Peru.

“I know their hands are full,” said Broomel, but noted that carriers such as Lufthansa and Delta Air Lines offer agents regular updates or dedicated help lines. “It doesn’t have to be like that. And I’m in the agony of making the wrong decision for others. “

Air Canada, which cut flights by about 90% in the next two months, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Its website states that “cancellations caused by COVID-19 are beyond our control”, but that the company will provide “a flight credit of equal value for a future ticket purchased within 24 months” of the cancellation date.

While U.S. and EU officials have ordered airlines to reimburse customers for canceled flights, a statement on the Canadian Transportation Agency website says the airlines are not obliged to reimburse passengers for flights suspended due to the new coronavirus or other reasons beyond the control of a carrier.

The lawyers believe that the declaration, which is unsigned, does not have the authority for an official decision, each of which is signed by one or more of the members of the tribunal.

If a flight is canceled due to events beyond the control of an airline, the carrier must provide other arrangements, but not refunds, in accordance with passenger rights rules adopted last year. However, most airlines have a tariff – the contract between the airline and the passenger – which provides for reimbursements in such cases.

WestJet fare which states that “the unused portion of the passenger ticket (s) will be refunded … if the alternative transportation offered by the carrier does not satisfy the passenger”, in the event of cancellation beyond the control of the carrier.

Despite this commitment, the WestJet website states that it “does not process refunds to the original payment method at this time”, and instead highlights future travel credits.

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