Air Canada has more refund complaints in U.S. than any other foreign airline

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Air Canada has more customer complaints about refunds to the U.S. Department of Transportation than any non-U.S. airline.

The department says Air Canada received 969 refund complaints out of 7,568 in April, or 13 per cent, outpacing more than 80 carriers in the category.

The Montreal-based airline ranked third for refund complaints of any carrier, after United Airlines and American Airlines.

Air Canada and other Canadian airlines have refused to reimburse most customers whose flights were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S., like the European Union, requires airlines to refund passengers. A complaint to the U.S. transportation department offers a potential path to reimbursement for some Air Canada customers who have been turned down north of the border.

Despite the high complaint numbers, Air Canada carries fewer passengers on flights with a U.S. segment than British Air and Lufthansa as well as four U.S. airlines, according to 2018 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

WestJet Airlines Ltd. ranks right below Air Canada in cross-border passenger numbers, but garnered the 10th-most refund complaints at 217, tying with Air France. WestJet has said customers on U.S. or U.K. flights are entitled to refunds.

Air Canada did not immediately reply to questions Monday.

“The APPR (Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations) and CTA only require that airlines ensure passengers can complete their journeys,” the airline said in a June 23 filing to the U.S. Department of Transportation. “In addition, CTA has approved the use of travel credits or vouchers during the COVID-19 epidemic.”

Air Canada has returned about $1 billion to customers who bought more expensive refundable tickets, but still has some $2.6 billion from advance ticket sales, according to an Air Canada executive’s testimony to the House of Commons health committee last week.

In place of refunds, Air Canada and other carriers have generally offered travel credits to customers with flights called off as a result of the coronavirus crisis, which has drastically shrunk their income amid broad border closures and low travel demand.

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


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