Air Canada agrees to US$4.5 million settlement in refund delay case

ACV temporarily suspends service to 14 sun destinations for Jan. 24 – April 30, 2022

MONTREAL — Air Canada Vacations has been forced to temporarily suspend service to more than a dozen sun destinations as the omicron surge continues to wreak havoc with travel’s recovery.

Commissions are not protected on cancelled files, according to ACV’s FAQs (see below).

A letter from ACV VP Nino Montagnese went out today ahead of ACV alerts to its travel industry partners who have clients impacted by the suspensions.

As per this list at ACV’s site, suspended destinations include Antigua, Aruba, Samaná, Curaçao, Exuma, Grenada, Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Havana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Air Canada plans to operate a number of one-way commercial flights from affected destinations in order to return customers at the suspended destinations to Canada, to help ensure that Canadians are not stranded abroad, says ACV.

“Any travellers affected by the temporary suspension of the above listed destinations will be issued a full refund. Our team will be contacting any impacted customers and processing refunds in order of departure date. Eligible customers will receive an invoice as confirmation of their refund once it has been issued,” says the notice on ACV’s site.

 

“UNAVOIDABLE DISRUPTIONS”

COVID’s resurgence, along with restrictions from the federal government including the Level 3 travel advisory and ramped up testing and self-isolation requirements for returning travellers, have led to reduced demand for some destinations, says Montagnese in his letter to the trade.

The resulting “unavoidable disruptions to Air Canada’s flight schedule” impact flights from Jan. 24 to April 30, 2022.

Montagnese adds however that the upcoming flight cancellations will impact only 7% of ACV customers, and the tour operator has maintained operations to 23 sun destinations throughout the winter season.

Montagnese says agents will receive an email later today if their clients’ vacation is cancelled as a result of a destination suspension.

Here is the letter in full:

“At first glance, 2022 can be mistaken for its predecessor. Omicron ushered in a wave of renewed uncertainty that coincided with the holidays and impacted our industry yet again.

“But unlike the heavy restrictions that kicked off 2021, this setback is a molehill, not a mountain. And this year is nothing  like the last. We’re stronger, wiser and well-prepared to manage the potential effects of COVID-19.

“Our renewed position of strength can be seen when we look at this year’s holiday travel. Despite the  confusion created by a new variant, our concerted efforts meant that the vacations of our customers  were largely unaffected during the peak holiday period.

“Yet, as we continue the winter season, a  resurgence of COVID and new government regulations have reduced demand in some Sun destinations, leading to unavoidable disruptions to Air Canada’s flight schedule from January 24 to April 30, 2022.

“You’ll be receiving an email later today if your clients’ vacation is cancelled as a result of a destination suspension, informing you of the impacted bookings.

“However, these changes will only impact 7% of our customers, and we’ve maintained operations to 23  Sun destinations throughout the winter season.

“I invite you to consult the full list of affected destinations here, as an added resource.

“We’ve also put together a more detailed overview of what these cancellations mean for you here.

“The challenges of this new year are not unprecedented. Based on the lessons learned in 2021, we’ve  implemented the necessary policies and procedures to help our industry weather the storm.

“The goodwill policy we introduced last spring guarantees a refund to any customer whose vacation is cancelled by Air Canada Vacations. This was more than a gesture; it was a way to rebuild Canadians’ confidence in travel and encourage the bookings we all need to recover. We’ve also restored a level of  comfort, thanks to our CareFlex travel protection plan and the COVID-19 coverage offered through  Allianz Global Assurance. Despite the uncertainty created by a new variant, we’re seeing that people  are planning their vacations and following through with them.

“This is a fresh start bolstered by a slew of lessons. We’ve become familiar with the ebbs and flows of  the pandemic now. Although we may feel trepidation when our déjà vu is triggered, we should see it  instead as a sign of how far we’ve come. Pandemic travel is no longer extraordinary – it’s a reality that  we’re well-prepared for. We’ve got this.

“I wish you all a brighter 2022, full of promise and possibility. Thank you for your continued support.”

 

ACV FAQs FOR SUSPENDED DESTINATIONS

Here are the Frequently Asked Questions as outlined by ACV about today’s announcement:

Q: How will I be notified about bookings that are affected by the destination suspensions?

A: Air Canada Vacations will be sending you an email about any individual files impacted by the suspension today, including the booking numbers of each affected reservation. There is no need to call into Air Canada Vacations, as your files will be automatically cancelled, and the refund will be processed.

Note: In cases where the destination has not been suspended, but the flight schedule has changed, Air Canada Vacations will contact you directly with your options, as per our normal process. If the destination has been completely suspended, your customer’s file will be automatically cancelled, and you will receive a new invoice as confirmation once their refund has been processed.

Q: How will I know when the file has been processed?

A: Once your client’s file has been cancelled, you will receive an updated invoice. Refunds may take up to 6 weeks to process and will be issued on the client’s original form of payment.

Q: What if I have a Group booking affected by the destination suspensions?

A: For Group bookings where the destination has been suspended, your Air Canada Vacations Groups Coordinator will contact you directly to review the available options, so there is no action required on your end. Please note that we will be contacting agents in order of scheduled departure date.

Q: Will the entire cost of the Air Canada Vacations booking qualify for a full refund?

A: Customers with Air Canada Vacations bookings impacted by destination suspensions will receive a full refund. The refund will be processed by our team without any action necessary on your end, so there is no need to call in. Please note that once the file is cancelled, it may take up to 6 weeks for the refund to be processed.

Q: For destinations where the route is still operating, what are the terms and conditions?

A: Bookings for destinations where Air Canada is still operating are subject to our regular terms and conditions. Should there be any operational changes to your clients’ bookings for these destinations, you will be contacted directly and presented with the available options, as per Air Canada Vacations’ normal procedure.

Q: Are commissions on cancelled bookings protected?

A: For any files booked with Air Canada Vacations, regular terms and conditions apply. Therefore, commissions are not protected on files that are cancelled.

Q: Can you provide a full list of suspended destinations?

A: The temporarily suspended destinations are Antigua, Aruba, Samaná, Curaçao, Exuma, Grenada, Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Havana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

 

ACV’s REMINDERS FOR UNAFFECTED FILES

“Air Canada Vacations highly recommends that agents and consumers add our travel protection plans to all bookings, given the ever-changing environment. Our travel protection plans must be added at time of booking and are the perfect option to ensure your clients are covered should the unexpected happen.

“We also strongly encourage your customers to obtain sufficient travel insurance, including COVID-19 benefits, for all their coverage needs. Travel insurance can only be purchased at the time of booking and prior to their departure. For more information and to buy online, visit our Travel insurance page.

“If your customers have purchased CareFlex or booked with a reduced deposit, and their vacations are not impacted by the above destination suspensions, please visit our Manage Your Booking page to submit your files for cancellation under their travel protection. You can also manage your clients’ bookings with our new self-serve tools for agents, so that you can skip the wait due to our higher than normal call volumes.”