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431-00184 (Transportation)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons

WHEREAS

  • Canadian airlines are refusing to provide full refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • These passengers, including many who have been laid-off from work and many small business owners who have been forced to close their businesses, as well as senior citizens and those with health problems desperately need their money back now.
  • By offering vouchers for future travel the airlines are not meeting the wishes of their passengers and are in fact knowingly creating a coronavirus profit centre by using the money they are holding as interest-free loans and being fully aware that many passengers will be unable to redeem their vouchers due to ill health, financial constraints, work demands or death. The proceeds from these unredeemed coupons will flow directly to the airlines' bottom line.

We, the citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to:

1. Refuse to provide any form of government financial aid to the Canadian airlines until they promptly provide full refunds to any Canadian citizen or resident whose flight was cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic and who requests a full refund instead of a travel voucher.

2. Require all foreign airlines with flights to, within, or from Canada to promptly provide full refunds to any Canadian citizen or resident whose flight was cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic and who requests a full refund instead of a travel voucher and to issue sanctions against any foreign airline that refuses to comply.

Response by the Minister of Transport

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Marc Garneau

As a consequence of massive revenue declines resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, Canadian air carriers are predominantly offering vouchers rather than immediate refunds for travel cancelled due to COVID-19. However, in many instances, the passengers no longer want or are able to travel, or would prefer to have cash immediately to address financial challenges resulting from the pandemic.

Canada’s Air Transport Regulations and Air Passenger Protection Regulations do not provide any guidance with respect to refunds and/or vouchers for situations outside the carrier's control, including cancelled flights due to a global pandemic such as COVID-19. Rather, air carriers have a basic obligation to complete the passenger’s itinerary, and otherwise address this issue as part of their respective terms and conditions of carriage (tariffs).

As a result, different airlines have different commitments in their tariffs, often associated with the cost of the ticket, ranging from refunds for cancelled flights outside of their control to no obligation at all. As such, Canadian air carriers have implemented varying voucher and refund policies during the current pandemic.

The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) issued a statement on March 25, 2020, to the effect that it could be an appropriate approach for air carriers to issue vouchers or credit instead of refunds for flight cancellations caused by COVID-19, as long as these do not expire in an unreasonably short period of time (e.g. less than 24 months). The Agency's voucher statement is not binding and did not change the law or alter passengers’ rights. There is an application before the Federal Court of Appeal for judicial review of the voucher statement.

The Government is fully cognizant of the issue and recognizes the importance of approaches that balance the needs of individual Canadian travellers and air carriers who are going through the most difficult time in the history of the industry.

Presented to the House of Commons
Yasmin Ratansi (Don Valley East)
May 12, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00184)
Government response tabled
July 20, 2020
Photo - Yasmin Ratansi
Don Valley East
Liberal Caucus
Ontario

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