Canadian government says all canceled flights will be refunded, no matter the reason

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As the summer of travel chaos escalates and vacationers prepare for the worst-case scenario, the Canadian government plans to ensure that all canceled flights are covered, whatever the reason. Until now, air passengers were only entitled to refunds when the disruption was under a carrier’s control.

This will change very soon.

Happy young woman checking her phone as she walks to the departure gate in an international airport

New regulations are expected to come into force later this year and will ensure customers are protected even in situations where flights are grounded due to unforeseen circumstances. The move follows several reports of staff shortages in the industry, which have allegedly triggered a series of flight delays and cancellations in North America.

Canada to adopt stricter refund policies after cancellations

Plane preparing to take off from Toronto Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Recognizing that the current aviation crisis has the potential to worsen further, the Canadian government is take measures to protect air passengers from the looming wave of cancellations. Luckily, it won’t be long before they have full refund rights, even when the airlines cannot be held responsible for the inconveniences.

Departure September 8, Canada’s Department of Transport will apply stricter rules regarding flight refunds, in an effort to ease the burden on travelers during readjustments. From that date, carriers will be required to reimburse passengers, or rebook them for the next available flight, following a too long delay or cancellation.

Young female traveler with a backpack looking closely at the departure information board at the airport

According to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), customers will receive a full refund even when their flights are disrupted due to incidents beyond an airline’s control. This includes bad weatherone of the main causes of cancellations in North America, but also of “unforeseen mechanical problems”.

Prior to the new regulations, airlines were not legally required to reimburse customers, or even to insure their travel continuation, when adverse events occurred, such as storms or hurricanes. However, as the vast majority of flights are delayed, either due to staff constraints or technical issues, the Canadian government has decided to intervene.

Canadian flag flying above the Parliament building in Ottawa, capital of Canada

According to France Pegeot, a CTA official, the new regulations aim to “fill the gap” found in Canada’s air passenger protection regime, ensure travelers are protected “even in the event of cancellations and extended delays that are beyond the airline’s control.” To be more specific, anyone traveling to Canada will have full cancellation coverage.

How will this work in practice?

Toronto Pearson International Airport sign, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Once the regulations come into effect, travelers whose flights have been canceled or who are stranded at the airport due to a “long delay” will be re-booked or refunded up to 30 days maximum when airlines fail to get them to their final destination within the next 48 hours. Once again, the measure will apply to any disturbance.

In the case of a cancellation communicated mid-term, “any unused portion of a ticket must be covered”. This includes any unused paid add-ons, such as meals, pre-selection of seats and additional baggage. On top of that, the CTA claimed that tickets must be refunded to the original method of payment.

Traveler booking a flight on a computer while holding a credit card, flight booking concept

In other words, reimbursement via a travel voucher is officially excluded, unless the customer chooses to keep the flight credit. During the Covid pandemic, several airlines resorted to voucher-only refunds in an attempt to avoid mass compensation, at a time when restrictions were widespread and they were struggling with a negative balance.

Although national governments initially supported their decision, Covid is now on its way to becoming an endemic disease in many places. This means it is high time the airlines were held accountable for disruptions affecting customers. Despite the obvious tightening of reimbursement rules, other leaders continue to push for more comprehensive regulation.

Canadian flag flying against historic heritage building, Canada

Some think the new regulations still don’t go far enough

As Gabor Lukacs, president of the air passenger rights group, argued, the new rules remain don’t go far enough. According to Lukacs, giving airlines 48 hours to rebook passengers does not meet traveler needs: “Whether you are traveling for a weekend, a vacation or for business, traveling 48 hours later would defeat the purpose of your trip”.

Female traveler holding on to her luggage while looking at airport runway

Lukacs urges the Canadian government to pass tougher laws, seeing that currently, Canada is the ‘only Western country’ where airlines are allowed to keep passengers’ money after cancellations, in stark contrast to the United States, members of the European Union, Israel and “even Turkey”. Fortunately, the CTA finally seems to be changing its approach.

In these uncertain times, we cannot recommend enough to take out travel insurance before flying, whether in France or abroad. The Canadian government may finally act to protect passenger rights, but getting insurance remains the easiest way to avoid financial setbacks resulting from cancellations.

For more information on travel insurance, please visit this page.

Read more:

Travel insurance that covers Covid-19 for 2022

Unvaccinated Canadians can now travel in and out of Canada

Canada suspends random Covid testing on arrival to reduce travel disruption

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Your phone could be searched when entering Canada with proposed new law

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