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Watchdog says flight refund rules may need reworking to address possible 'gaps'

Last Updated Jun 24, 2020 at 11:33 am PDT

Scott Streiner, Chairman & CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, launch the final provisions of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations during a press conference at the Ottawa International Airport in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. Steiner says Canada may need to rethink its passenger protection rules after hundreds of thousands flight cancellations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic left travellers out of pocket. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Summary

Top transportation regulator says Canada may need to address potential "gaps" in its passenger protection rules

Hundreds of thousands flight cancellations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic left travellers out of pocket

Officials should rethink whether airlines have an obligation to refund passengers when flights are cancelled: CTA

The country’s top transportation regulator says Canada may need to address potential “gaps” in its passenger protection rules after hundreds of thousands flight cancellations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic left travellers out of pocket.

Scott Streiner, who heads the Canadian Transportation Agency, says officials should rethink whether airlines have an obligation to refund passengers when flights are cancelled for reasons beyond the carrier’s control — such as a global virus outbreak.

A new passenger rights charter, which fully came into effect on Dec. 15, requires airlines to ensure that customers can complete their itineraries, but does not demand reimbursement.

Most Canadian airlines have offered credit for cancelled flights that is valid for at least two years, but have held on to the airfares amid a collapse of the travel industry.

Advocates say passengers have the right to a refund for services that were never rendered.

In an interview, Streiner said the watchdog has received a “tsunami of complaints” about airlines in recent months, with more than 93 per cent filed since mid-December, though many came in before the pandemic struck.