OTTAWA — Better protections for the rights of air travellers, immediate refunds for customers and more monetary relief for airlines and airports are some of the recommendations in a parliamentary committee’s report on the air industry’s recovery from the global pandemic.
However, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities said Wednesday that any financial support from the government should be on the condition that airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers for pandemic related cancellations and restore regional routes in the country.
Airlines dropped multiple routes in regions like Atlantic Canada during the pandemic, as passenger volume plummeted with COVID-19 restrictions.
The report acknowledged the air transport industry will need extended financial relief that outlasts existing government subsidies, and that programs like wage subsidies and rent relief must continue past the summer for airlines and airports.
“There is no doubt that the air transport sector is critical to Canada’s economic recovery and to the connectivity of the entire country,” said Vance Badawey, chair of the committee and Liberal MP, in a statement.
He said the committee’s recommendations are “aimed at maintaining the sector’s competitiveness, protecting jobs and ensuring the health and safety of workers, passengers and the Canadian public.”
The committee report said any federal aid should be aimed at protecting existing jobs and re-hiring workers.
Air Passenger Rights, an advocacy group, said the report’s recommendations to require airlines to provide refunds were good to see.
The organization said many travellers have struggled to actually receive their money back, despite financial aid from the government that was aimed at helping airlines issue refunds.
“The report fully vindicates our position,” said Gabor Lukacs, Air Passenger Rights’ president in a statement. “Common sense, decency, and fairness dictate that if a business is unable to deliver services, it must refund customers.”
Meanwhile, the committee called on the government to form a detailed aviation restart program, something that airlines and travel operators have been calling for to help the industries develop a clear plan for the coming months.
The committee also called on the government to consult with public health authorities around whether self-quarantine requirements can be lowered to seven or 10 days from the current 14-day requirement.
The federal government has already planned to scrap the 14-day requirement for fully vaccinated travellers some time in July.
Looking forward, the committee called on Transport Canada to draft a report about lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve as reference for any future emergencies.