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Canada may need to rework flight refund rules to address possible ‘gaps’: watchdog

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: Why won’t airlines give me my money back?' Coronavirus outbreak: Why won’t airlines give me my money back?
People around the world have been pushing major airlines to give them refunds for their flights that were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but many are instead giving out travel vouchers and travel miles. Jasmine Pazzano explains why many airlines aren't paying up. – Jun 9, 2020

The country’s top transportation regulator says Canada may need to address potential “gaps” in its passenger protection rules after hundreds of thousands flight cancellations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic left travellers out of pocket.

Scott Streiner, who heads the Canadian Transportation Agency, says officials should rethink whether airlines have an obligation to refund passengers when flights are cancelled for reasons beyond the carrier’s control — such as a global virus outbreak.

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A new passenger rights charter, which fully came into effect on Dec. 15, requires airlines to ensure that customers can complete their itineraries, but does not demand reimbursement.

Most Canadian airlines have offered credit for cancelled flights that is valid for at least two years, but have held on to the airfares amid a collapse of the travel industry.

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Read more: ‘People are livid’ — Advocates call on feds to make airlines give refunds amid COVID-19

Advocates say passengers have the right to a refund for services that were never rendered.

In an interview, Streiner said the watchdog has received a “tsunami of complaints” about airlines in recent months, with more than 93 per cent filed since mid-December, though many came in before the pandemic struck.

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