Feds, advocate square off in court over air passenger refunds

OTTAWA — The federal government and a consumer rights advocate are squaring off in court over whether regulators misled passengers by encouraging travel credit rather than refunds at the onset of the pandemic.

In the early months of COVID−19’s spread, airlines cancelled hundreds of thousands of flights and offered company vouchers to customers instead of refunds.

The Canadian Transportation Agency issued a statement on vouchers in March 2020 that suggested reimbursement was mandatory only if the contract between customer and airline provided for it in certain cases.

Gabor Lukacs, president of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group, argues that the regulator showed bias by misinforming travellers about their legal right to a refund for services not rendered.

The group wants the Federal Court of Appeal to order a retraction of the voucher statement, along with a correction.

In response, the government says its statement simply reiterated that vouchers were one means of compensation and that the advocacy group incorrectly frames its guidance as tainted, arguing that the case should be dismissed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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