Thousands of people saw their vacation plans shattered when travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19 caused widespread flight cancellations. Others have chosen to cancel their trips on their own in accordance with public health warnings discouraging domestic and international travel. Until this week, Air Canada refused to reimburse many of these customers and instead offered vouchers or other forms of credit that could be used to purchase future flights.
But ensuring those customers get their money back was a key condition of an agreement announced yesterday between the federal government and Air Canada. As part of the deal, the federal government will provide $ 5.9 billion in financial support to the company in the form of a combination of low-interest loans and equity financing.
In return for this support, Air Canada agreed to reimburse customers, restore regional routes and set limits on executive compensation, share buybacks and dividend payments.
Here’s what travelers need to know about the changes.
Who is entitled to a refund?
Effective today, Air Canada has changed its COVID-19 reimbursement policy. The new policy applies to anyone who purchased a non-refundable ticket or vacation package before April 13, 2021 for travel on or after February 1, 2020.
Customers with tickets purchased during this period that have been canceled by the airline – or voluntarily canceled by the customer for any reason – will have the option of receiving a refund in their original payment method.
How to request a refund?
How you request a refund depends on how you purchased your ticket or vacation package.
Customers who purchased directly from Air Canada must apply online using the airline’s website. Air Canada will accept online refund requests from eligible customers until June 12 at www.aircanada.com/refund.
Customers who have booked through a travel agency or travel reservation website should contact these companies directly.
Under the agreement between Air Canada and the federal government, travel agencies and booking sites can keep the commissions they have made on the sale of tickets.
WATCH: Air passengers will get refunds under Air Canada-Ottawa deal
What if you’ve already converted the ticket into a travel voucher or Aeroplan points?
Air Canada said customers who have already accepted an Air Canada travel voucher or Aeroplan points as a reward will have the option to redeem them for a refund in their original payment method.
This includes customers who have used part of their travel voucher or who have only received partial refunds, the airline said.
How long will it take to get the refund?
Air Canada did not say how long it will take to process the claims. He said he hoped to do it quickly.
“We are committed to processing refunds as quickly as possible,” said Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Commercial Director at Air Canada today.
Air Canada said it tracks bookings based on passenger records (PNRs), which could be for an individual traveler or a group. The airline estimates it could have more than two million PNRs to process, although some passengers may be satisfied with vouchers or Aeroplan points instead of refunds.
The airline said it had already paid customers $ 1.2 billion with refundable tickets.
What about future travel bookings?
Air Canada has changed its reservation policy for all future trips.
Effective today, all customers will have the option of receiving a refund, travel voucher or equivalent value in Aeroplan points in the event the airline cancels or postpones a flight longer than three hours. Those who opt for points can receive a 65% bonus.
“This new policy will provide more certainty and flexibility, so customers can book their future trip with confidence, and we look forward to welcoming you back on board,” said Guillemette.
What regional routes will be restored?
As part of the agreement with the federal government, Air Canada has agreed to restore flights on 13 regional routes no later than June 1, 2021.
Air Canada’s service to the following suspended airports will resume for as long as public health advice permits:
- Goose Bay
- North Bay
- Prince Rupert
- Saint Jean
What if you are a customer of another airline?
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Monday that the federal government was still in negotiations with other airlines over possible aid plans.
Freeland called talks with WestJet of Calgary – the country’s second largest airline – “constructive.”
“The basic general requirements of the Government of Canada, of course, will be the same – the importance of reimbursements, the importance of restoring regional roads, the importance of maintaining employment, the importance of restrictions on executive compensation, ”she said. “But the precise form of an agreement will depend on the specific needs of each airline. “
In October, WestJet announced it would begin a six- to nine-month passenger reimbursement process with refundable and non-refundable tickets for flights canceled by the airline during the pandemic. Passengers with non-refundable tickets who have canceled their flight themselves are not eligible.
In a statement on Monday, WestJet said it plans to restore service to the 42 airports it served before the pandemic “at our earliest opportunity” and that its reimbursement policy was “industry-leading” at the Canada.