Flight refund advocates go to top court
An advocacy group is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to hear a case on passenger refunds as frustration over flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to simmer.
The Air Passenger Rights organization sought leave to appeal Monday a Federal Court of Appeal decision that dismissed the group’s attempt for an injunction compelling the Canadian Transportation Agency to remove a post about refunds from its website temporarily while a broader case about the statement’s validity is ongoing.
The CTA said in March that airlines have the right to issue travel credits instead of a refund for cancelled trips in the “current context,” though the agency later clarified that the online statement was “not a binding decision.”
Canadian airlines have generally offered credit valid for two years or more but avoided offering reimbursement to customers whose flights were called off because of the coronavirus crisis, with carriers citing the agency’s stance in response to consumer complaints and analyst questions.
Air Passenger Rights founder Gabor Lukacs says the CTA’s statements misled travellers about their right to a refund and contradict the quasi-judicial body’s previous decisions.
“If people believe they have no right to a refund, they will just not pursue it,” he said.
“This case is about whether a public body can mislead the public without facing some kind of judicial scrutiny.”
Some passengers may not be able to fly in the next two years for health or financial reasons, advocates say. Meanwhile, the airfare they paid amounts to a nointerest loan to airlines.
The pandemic has devastated the airline industry, with billions of dollars in losses for Canadian carriers amid grounded flights and tight international borders.
The European Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation have required airlines to refund passengers. The U.S. and European countries including France and Germany have also offered billions in financial relief to struggling carriers, however, while Ottawa has provided no industryspecific bailout to airlines.
Since February, passengers have filed a handful of proposed class-action lawsuits and three petitions garnering more than 109,000 signatures that call for customer reimbursement.
The CTA did not respond to requests for comment.