The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is calling on Air Canada to reverse its refund policy after the airline claimed that it was not obligated to issue refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled.
The airline announced its position during a pending U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) enforcement proceeding on June 26, and stated that it was not required to provide refunds for flights cancelled by the airline, if the fare rules for the tickets in question do not specifically require it.
This decision is in opposition of Department of Transportation regulations, requiring carriers to provide passengers with a full refund when the carrier cancels the flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule, and the passenger chooses not to accept any alternative offered by the carrier.
“Regardless of whether any of Air Canada’s legal arguments will ultimately be found to have merit, ASTA finds its position disputing the DOT’s authority to mandate refunds to be disappointing in terms of fundamental fairness when the situation is viewed from the traveler’s perspective,” ASTA said in a statement.
“As the DOT notes, the question is ‘not on whether the flight disruptions are within or outside the carrier’s control, but rather on the fact that the cancellation is through no fault of the passenger.’”
While the DOT maintains that these regulations apply to foreign carriers as well as domestic when the flights were scheduled to travel to the U.S., Air Canada argues that the DOT’s Enforcement Notice is not legally binding and any attempt by the DOT to enforce it would constitute “an unwarranted extraterritorial application of U.S. law.”
“Air Canada’s recently revised cancellation and rebooking policies are not, as written, unfair when the impacted consumer is amenable to receiving a voucher for future travel, and in most respects, they do align with the best practice recommendations of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA),” ASTA said. “However, in our view it works a substantial injustice for consumers that justifiably relied upon the DOT refund regulation and Air Canada’s previous policy which reflected its adherence to it.”
The group also applauded the work of the airlines that have responded to the crisis by freely providing refunds to affected customers, citing that these flexible policies will provide a much needed boost in consumer confidence in the industry.
“We commend those carriers that, despite the difficult circumstances, have honored their obligations to their passengers under the DOT’s mandate and call on Air Canada to do the same immediately by reversing its current position on refunds. By doing the right thing for the affected passengers, abiding by the established rules and promptly providing refunds for cancelled flights when requested, Air Canada can maintain the trust and confidence of both the agency community and the traveling public as a whole.”