Transat changes course on refunds after cancelling slew of winter flights

Transat changes course on refunds after cancelling slew of winter flights

MONTREAL — Air Transat plans to cancel all flights from Western Canada to sun destinations and the United States this winter, with refunds en route to customers — a policy 180 in the COVID-19 era.

The airline is scrubbing all southbound routes that were slated to take off from Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria, Air Transat parent Transat AT told customers this week.

The only routes out of western gateways between Nov. 1 and April 30 will be from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal, as well as some connecting flights to Europe via Toronto.

Would-be passengers will automatically receive a full refund rather than the company credit that has previously been offered for flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis, Transat said.

“Since the current situation does not allow us to foresee resuming routes from Western Canada in the near future and there will therefore be no direct flight options to use vouchers with Air Transat from their location, customers impacted by cancellations resulting from this suspension will receive a refund in the amount on file,” Transat spokeswoman Marie-Christine Pouliot said in an email.

“For other locations, where more options exist, we have offered more flexibility by relaxing our travel credit policy. They are now fully transferable and have no expiry date.”

Transat cited “the many challenges” facing the airline industry, which revolve around a pandemic that shut down borders and grounded fleets before traffic slowly starting to pick up in the summer, though not enough to revive the critical crossborder tourism or business travel markets. The Montreal-based carrier’s first flight in four months took off last week.

Transat and other Canadian airlines have refused to reimburse most customers whose flights were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus.

Transat, Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. have all said their stance on refunds aligns with federal regulations and guidance posted over the past five months by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).

Legal precedent, contract law suggest that’s not the case, said passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs, noting “the universal principal across Canada” that customers should be reimbursed for services never rendered.

“Air Transat must refund all passengers whose flights were cancelled, regardless of their point of departure or the reason for the cancellation,” Lukacs said, citing a CTA decision from 2004 concerning Transat as well as the carrier’s own contract of carriage.

The company’s crossborder tariff — a contract between airline and passenger — states that Transat “will refund the unused ticket” in the event of overbooking or cancellation by the airline.

Air Canada quietly changed its refund policy in June to allow some customers with cancelled flight tickets to recoup their cash — but not passengers whose trips originated in Canada.

Travellers with flights originating in the European Union, Switzerland or Iceland are entitled to receive a refund, the airline said, but passengers who were slated to fly one-way or round-trip from Canada to Europe are not.

WestJet changed its policy to reimburse customers on flights between the U.S. and Canada that were cancelled due to COVID-19 after “carefully monitoring the regulatory frameworks” across jurisdictions.

The country’s three biggest airlines have cancelled tens of thousands of flights since late March. Air Canada saw capacity dip by 95 per cent in the spring after it lost more than $1 billion in the first quarter and projects passenger levels will not return to 2019 levels for at least three years.

Transat told The Canadian Press last week it will delay the closing deadline of its takeover by Air Canada, pushing it back by one month until Aug. 27 as European regulators and federal cabinet members mull how the $720-million acquisition will affect competition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TRZ, TSX:AC)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier isolating after minister tests positive for COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is isolating at home

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

robbery
UPDATE: Shooting suspect arrested by Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

File photo
RCMP’s response to online discussions about anti-racism demonstrations

Ponoka RCMP Staff Sgt.’s comments misattributed online

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Most Read