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Before Canadian Airlines Get a Bailout, Transport Minister Wants Refunds

Although the Canadian parliament is considering their first bailout package for airlines, the transport minister wants flyers to get refunds first. In a statement, Marc Garneau suggested before carriers get any government money, his office wants to ensure “Canadians get their refunds.”

The international aviation industry is suffering due to the widespread COVID-19 pandemic, and Canada is no exception. But before Air Canada, WestJet and others get bailout funds from the Canadian parliament, transport minister Marc Garneau says flyers should get refunds. The head of Transport Canada made his expectations clear in a statement issued Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020.

“Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure Canadians get their refunds”

While acknowledging the effects of the pandemic on the aviation sector, Garneau also noted the airline policies of issuing travel vouchers instead of refunds to Canadian flyers who qualified. The original Air Canada policy was to offer flyers a “full credit” valid for 24 months of the flight cancellation date. Garneau suggested airlines were taking advantage of ticketed passengers by shifting policies.

“When this unprecedented pandemic broke out in the spring, Canadians who had already booked travel ended up stuck with vouchers for trips they could not take instead of getting refunds,” Garneau said in his statement. “They found themselves in a situation where they have given thousands of dollars in interest-free loans to airlines.”

Although the first bailout plan is being considered in parliament, Garneau noted that flyers who are entitled to refunds should get them. His plan calls for carriers to give flyers their money back before the government will offer support.

“Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure Canadians get their refunds,” said Garneau. “Any assistance the Government of Canada provides will come with strict conditions to protect Canadians and the public interest.”

In addition to ensuring flyers get refunds, Garneau’s proposal would also have airlines maintain service to smaller airports. While nothing is finished, the transport minister wants to make sure “regional communities retain air connections,” while airlines remain “key customers of Canada’s aerospace industry.”

Bailout Could Drive Support to Tourism and over 100,000 Jobs

While the focus of the statement was on consumer protections, Garneau also noted that Canada relies on air transportation as a critical part of their infrastructure. If a bailout were to move forward, the transportation minister anticipates it would help benefit over 100,000 jobs, while airlines would be free to pursue other methods to stay viable.

Gnb56 November 12, 2020

As a UK resident holding an Air Canada and a WestJet voucher that I probably won’t be able to use, I hope the refunds will be for all customers not just Canadians. WestJet said they information on how to get a refund would follow - still waiting many months later!