Cancelled flight? Travellers say refunds are hard to come by
MONTREAL -- The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of many Quebecers trips abroad but those assuming they are due for a refund on their flights may be in for a shock.
Maria Alongi said she spent almost $8,000 on a trip booked for July. While she's gotten a partial refund for a cruise and hotels that were booked, she said she's had no such luck with air travel.
“We feel that we're cheated by the system,” she said.
Christine Latremoille of travel agency Uniglobe said she's noticed that even when a flight has been cancelled outright, many airlines are offering credits instead of refunds.
“We're being met with roadblocks for people who want to cancel, whose trips are realistically not going to happen,” she said. “We can't necessarily fight their policies. We've tried.”
Air Canada has posted on social media they will offer credits that are valid for two years. John Gradek, an air industry expert at McGill University, said airlines are doing so to conserve cash during these troubled times.
“That conservation of cash requires them to rethink some of their policies that would see some of that cash go back to some of their passengers and used for travel booked in the future,” he said.
Gradek said he expects to see the legal concept of force majeure play a role as travellers escalate their disputes.
“Force majeure is basically something that's outside the control of the contracting parties to deliver or to receive services,” he said.
Class action attorney Jeff Orenstein said he's considering legal action on behalf of travellers seeking refunds.
“I've heard a lot about force majeure, act of God or fortuitous event. I think it's being used out of context here,” he said. “The reason you would use those words is so that consumers, for example, would not be trying to force airlines to fly when they're not able to. I believe the law is fairly clear the airlines must offer restitution.”
Alongi said she doesn't see herself risking travel in the next few years.
“We are afraid that maybe this airline or agency will go bankrupt and we'll never see our money back,” she said.