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Regina woman’s flights and hotel cancelled due to pandemic, refund initially refused after husband’s heart attack

Click to play video 'Frustration mounts over lack of refunds for flights cancelled' Frustration mounts over lack of refunds for flights cancelled
WATCH ABOVE (May 23): Canadians who had flights cancelled because of COVID-19 are angry that airlines are forcing them to take travel vouchers instead of offering refunds. Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs on the growing movement to hold airlines accountable. – May 23, 2020

A Regina woman whose vacation flights and resort accommodation to Cancun, Mexico, were cancelled because of coronavirus is getting a full refund after contacting Global News.

“I can’t thank you enough for your help,” said Marie-France Johnston this week.

In February, Johnston and her husband Scott booked an Easter getaway vacation to Cancun with Sunwing Vacations. It cost the couple $3,470. But with COVID-19, the trip was cancelled.

Then suddenly, Johnston’s 49-year-old husband Scott died of a heart attack on Aug 4. Marie-France contacted Sunwing about the issue, but said she was told a future travel credit would be provided — not a refund.

“I was told I can now go on two separate trips. I was disgusted by the agent,” she told Global News in an email.

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The holiday had been paid for on Scott’s PC Mastercard, so Marie-France contacted the credit card company asking for a chargeback because the trip had been cancelled through no fault of the couple.

“PC is saying that because Sunwing is refusing the chargeback they can’t do anything,” Johnston said in an email to Global News.

“I also sent them the death certificate.”

Since March, many consumers across Canada have had a difficult time obtaining cash refunds for unused trips even when airlines stopped flying. Even consumers who used credit cards or who paid for travel insurance have been stuck.

Read more: Class action lawsuit against TD over travel insurance, cancelled trips amid COVID-19 pandemic

This week, lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit against TD Insurance for refusing to repay consumers who couldn’t travel. The allegations have not been proven in court.

“Passengers are not at the whim of airlines or card companies at all if they have the courage and stamina to stand their ground,” said Gabor Lukacs, founder of Air Passenger Rights, a Halifax-based consumer group that helps fliers deal with airline disputes.

Lukacs’ Air Passenger Rights Facebook page, which has approximately 37,000 followers, is filled with passengers’ frustrating stories about failed efforts to get refunded.

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“If the consumer follows the statutory process, and the credit card company nevertheless fails to comply with the law, the cardholder should claw back the disputed amount from the next bill,” he said.

Read more: COMMENTARY: Airlines who are refusing to provide refunds during COVID-19 could face reputational damage

In Johnston’s case, she and her husband’s credit card was fully paid and there was no outstanding balance.

A Sunwing Vacations representative told Global News in a statement that a chargeback was received on Aug. 24 “for the full amount of the customer’s vacation, which we responded to by the due date of Sept. 3.

“To our knowledge, the customer has received their money back but the case is still under review by the credit card issuer,” the statement said.

“Given the customer’s extenuating circumstances we have chosen to withdraw the case and not pursue a chargeback reversal.”

When contacted by Global News about the Johnston case, PC Financial, a division of Loblaw Companies Limited, issued a statement to say staff contacted Marie-France “to explain the chargeback timelines and have expedited her claim due to her circumstances.”

“We are sorry to hear about the stress this matter caused her, and based on our conversation we believe this has been resolved to her satisfaction,” the statement said.

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Marie-France said PC Financial promised to mail a cheque for the full amount of the cancelled vacation.

“I only got the credit because of your work,” she said.