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TORONTO — While the Canadian Transportation Agency originally deemed vouchers or future travel credits “appropriate” reimbursement for out-of-pocket travellers in these unprecedented times, the federal body now seems to have backpedalled a bit in a new FAQ posting.
However ACTA says the CTA’s statement on vouchers, even with the follow-up FAQ, is still a worthwhile tool for agents to use with clients requesting refunds.
“Although the CTA has added clarity with the Q&A, yes, we think the CTA position is still valid to be used as a communication tool with clients,” says ACTA President Wendy Paradis.
On March 25, as the industry was navigating difficult discussions with clients presented with the voucher/FTC option but demanding refunds, the CTA came out with a statement saying that given the unprecedented circumstances, vouchers were appropriate, provided the vouchers don’t expire in an unreasonably short period of time. The CTA noted that 24 months would be considered reasonable in most cases.
Facebook chat groups lit up with pushback from travellers and airline passenger rights groups, who argued that the CTA’s statement wasn’t binding.
The ongoing voucher vs. refund debate has left agents in a difficult position during an already challenging time.
This week the CTA posted a FAQ acknowledging that its Statement on Vouchers was not a binding decision. But it also says that that statement indicated that the use of vouchers could be a reasonable approach in the extraordinary circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, when flights are cancelled for reasons outside airlines’ control and passengers have no prospect of completing their itineraries. Vouchers for future travel can help protect passengers from losing the full value of their flights, and improve the odds that over the longer term, consumer choice and diverse service offerings — including from small and medium-sized airlines — will remain in Canada’s air transportation sector.”
The CTA then adds: “Of course, as noted in the statement, passengers can still file a complaint with the CTA and each case will be decided on its merits.”
Asked if the CTA’s new FAQ just adds to the confusion, leaving agents in an even more difficult position than before, Paradis had this to say: “The COVID-19 crisis is extremely challenging for travel agents, travel suppliers and consumers. It is important to remember that the travel supplier (airline, cruise line, tour operator) sets the terms and conditions of the travel product including conditions surrounding cancellations or future travel credit. The travel agent must abide by those terms and conditions, and yes in this unprecedented time, it is a very difficult situation to navigate.”
The CTA’s new FAQ on vouchers can be seen here.