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Forcing airlines to refund all cancelled tickets could have ‘devastating effect’ on industry: Garneau

Last Updated May 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm PDT

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. CANADIAN PRESS, Jonathan Hayward

Canada's transport minister said forced refunds would further devastate industry

PM Justin Trudeau said there is a way to balance survival of the industry with fair treatment for consumers

OTTAWA — The federal government is signalling that it won’t force airlines to offer refunds to ticket holders for flights cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal transport minister Marc Garneau said Friday mandating a reimbursement on a sector that has lost more than 90 per cent of its revenue during the lockdown would basically cripple an industry that’s of vital importance to Canada.

“If airlines had to immediately reimburse all cancelled tickets it would have a devastating effect on the air sector which has been reeling since the COVID-19 pandemic started,” he said.

Similarly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said consumer concerns can be addressed fairly, but the industry’s survival must also be ensured.

“We will continue to work with the industry and with concerned groups of Canadians to ensure that we find a fair way through this. But I know Canadians at the same time want to make sure we continue to have an airline industry after this very difficult pandemic. Getting that balance right and listening to Canadians is what we will do.”

In recent weeks, Canadian consumer pressure has intensified on the likes of Air Canada and WestJet to offer full refunds instead of the flight vouchers currently used for cancelled flights. WestJet is offering flight vouchers usable within two years. Air Canada is refunding its refundable ticket holders, but those holding non-refundable tickets have been offered vouchers that don’t expire or conversion of credits into Aeroplan Miles.