New Refund Regulations Shortchange Canadians

June 22, 2022

The government says its new rules strengthen passengers’ right to a refund for flights cancelled or delayed for reasons outside the carrier’s control.

Sounds too good to be true? Let’s look at the fine print.

Under the new rules, if your flight is cancelled but the airline offers you a flight in two days, the airline gets to keep your money even if the new flight is of no use to you anymore. Airlines will be required to refund passengers only if no alternative transportation is available within 48 hours.

Were you thinking of going for a weekend visit, leaving Friday and coming back on Sunday? If your Friday flight is cancelled, the airline will be able to offer you an outbound flight for Sunday that you will never take—and pocket your money. Passengers travelling in the holiday season would find themselves in a similar predicament, being offered a flight on Boxing Day instead of Christmas Eve, or on January 2nd instead of New Year’s Eve.

Even in those rare cases where the airlines do have to issue a refund under these new rules, they will get to keep passengers’ money for up to 30 days, and use it as an interest-free loan.

These new encroachments on passengers’ fundamental right to not pay for services they cannot use are unparalleled in the western world.

The European Union (EU), Israel, the United States, and even Turkey require airlines to offer passengers the option of a refund if the airline cancels a flight for any reason—irrespective of the alternative flights that may be available. The airline must issue such refunds within 7 days in the EU, Turkey, and in the US (with the exception of cash payments, where the airline has 20 days), and within 21 days in Israel. Similar rules also apply to flights that are delayed by more than a few hours (single digit).

The government of Canada, however, is assisting the airlines in shortchanging passengers in a manner that is unprecedented in the western world.

How much longer are Canadian travellers willing to put up with this…?