Ottawa, ON (October 23, 2020) – Air Passenger Rights, Canada’s independent nonprofit consumer advocacy group for air travellers, calls on Parliamentarians of all political stripes to support Bill C-249 that recognizes passengers’ fundamental right to a refund for cancelled flights. The bill reaffirms the decades-old rule that an airline must provide refunds to the original form of payment for flights they cancel, even if the cancellation was for reasons outside the airline’s control.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, air travellers have faced significant challenges in exercising their right to a refund for flights cancelled by airlines. Canadian airlines have been refusing to provide refunds, and instead typically offered vouchers and credit for future travel. The airlines argue they do not have to comply with the obligation to refund payments for services not rendered, because the pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances.
The declaratory bill, introduced today by MP Xavier Barsalou-Duval (BQ), settles the dispute by confirming that the law is and has always been that when a flight is cancelled for any reason, the airline must refund the passengers to the original form of payment.
The bill was developed in collaboration with Air Passenger Rights and Option consommateurs. "Common sense, decency, and fairness dictate that if a business is unable to deliver services, it must refund customers. The bill declares that airlines are no exception," said Dr. Gábor Lukács, Air Passenger Rights’ president. "We sympathize with the airline employees’ hardship, but many passengers have experienced hardship too," he added.
As of June 30, 2020, Air Canada held over $2.4 billion in advance ticket sales. "The unearned fares belong to the passengers, and must be returned to them," said Dr. Lukács.
In addition to mounting public criticism over their refusal to refund passengers, Canada’s five major airlines (Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing, Swoop, and WestJet) are also facing numerous proposed class actions across Canada. A certification hearing before a federal court judge will start on November 2, 2020.
“The fact that passengers have to resort to complex legal proceedings to enforce their fundamental right to a refund underscores the urgency of passing the bill,” Dr. Lukács stated.
If it becomes law, the bill will likely resolve a substantial part of the outstanding class actions.
About Air Passenger Rights
Air Passenger Rights is an independent, nonprofit organization of volunteers working to make the travelling public aware of its rights and capable of enforcing them. The organization's mission is to turn helpless passengers into empowered travelers through education, advocacy, investigation, and litigation.
For further information, please contact:
Dr. Gábor Lukács