TORONTO — ACTA’s latest update on its lobbying efforts includes citations from the CTA and TICO supporting the use of vouchers and travel credits, as opposed to refunds, for travellers out of pocket for airfare costs amid mass cancellations and operations suspensions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With airlines offering travel credits and vouchers, and many passengers demanding refunds instead, agents are caught in the middle and face commission recalls in the case of refunds, or worse if clients pursue chargebacks with their credit card company.
“ACTA has been very involved in the global discussions surrounding the refund problem,” says ACTA President Wendy Paradis. “We know that the Canadian Transportation Agency has issued a Statement which cites: “the CTA believes that, generally speaking, an appropriate approach in the current context could be for airlines to provide affected passengers with vouchers or credits for future travel, as long as these vouchers or credits do not expire in an unreasonably short period of time (24 months would be considered reasonable in most cases).”
Paradis adds that TICO also includes references on its website that further to Section 40 of Ontario’s Travel Industry Act, offering a full immediate refund or comparable alternative services does not apply in this current situation as it is deemed a force majeure. Customers are subject to the terms and condition of the booking. “ she added.
She notes that in other countries around the world, for instance, Belgium, legislation has been introduced on the sale of package holidays that has been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis with language stating “… the tour operator is entitled to provide the traveler with a voucher worth the amount paid instead of a refund”… and “the traveler cannot refuse the voucher that meets the conditions referred to in paragraph 1…”.
ACTA also knows that credit card chargebacks are a “critical concern” for the travel industry and ACTA travel agency members. “ACTA along with other key industry stakeholders have been in contact with the federal government at the highest levels to tackle this challenge,” says Paradis.
Paradis says ACTA will continue to keep members up to date on progress on this and other priority issues facing the industry right now.
Throughout this crisis ACTA has been extensively lobbying the federal government, provincial governments and globally with stakeholders on behalf of travel agencies, travel agency employees and independent travel agents.
ACTA’s recommendations cover access to zero interest/low interest business loans; relief for payroll taxes; addition of immediate special measures to the Work-Share program; and emergency support for the self-employed (independent contractors who make up 35% of travel agents) and who are not normally eligible for Employment Insurance.
“We are very pleased the Government has approved the following so far, but we will continue to lobby for more and to ensure that travel agencies and travel agents are recognized as being an important sector that has been severely impacted by COVID-19 measures,” says Paradis.
Here’s the complete detailed update from ACTA for today, March 27….
- $10 billion is available to Canadian businesses in financing and credit insurance solutions through the Business Credit Availability Program. It is important to note that funding made available through Business Development of Canada has been extended to other financial institutions listed on the Government’s website: https://www.canada.ca/en/
department-finance/programs/ financial-sector-policy/ business-credit-availability- program.html
- The CRA is deferring tax payment until August 31, 2020 to help businesses with cash flow;
- Immediate relief for small businesses with a 10% wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer;
- The Work-Share program has introduced some temporary special measures to support employers such as accepting businesses who have been in business for only 1 year rather than 2; elimination of the burden of having to provide sales/production figures at the same time; and a recovery plan is no longer required at this time.
ACTA has also lobbied for a reduction in the 30-day service standard wait time. “While this has not been noted on Service Canada’s website to date, ACTA was told today that Service Canada is expecting the service standard to be around 7-10 days but this is not in writing as yet,” says Paradis.
- Any worker that is no longer receiving an income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis –including Independent Travel Agents, is eligible for the $2,000 Emergency Relief Fund per month for 4 months/ 16 weeks, provided the person has earned at least $5,000 in the last 12 months. It is retroactive from March 15. Workers should expect to receive this about 10 days after applying and the Application Portal for applying will be launched in early April.
“What ACTA has been advised so far is that employees can apply for the Emergency Relief Fund and then apply for EI when the ERF expires,” said Paradis.” Independent Travel agents can apply for the Emergency Relief Fund. In our discussions with the Government about the unique circumstances of Travel Agencies and Travel Agents, we have been advised that the 16-week period will be re-assessed as the longer term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.”
Businesses should check the following sites. “Be aware that the information is evolving and still being uploaded so keep checking if you don’t find the details you are looking for”, says Paradis:
- Visit website for businesses for information about supporting your employees and your business. It is constantly updated as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.
- Contact your local financial institution. Since most small businesses have a relationship with their local financial institution already, the government has worked with the financial sector to increase their lending capability to support you at this time. They are a good place to start for help rather than going directly to the BDC.
- Download the Canada Business App to find tailored supports to address your needs in the face of COVID-19.
- Visit ACTA.ca for COVID-19 important information and tools to help you navigate through all the information out there.
UPDATE ON THE LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN
ACTA has tallied over 2,000 letters, says Paradis, and these have been sent to the Prime Minister, the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee Members, MPs, MPPs, and MLAs since ACTA’s request just a few days ago.
ACTA is asking agents to continue the campaign as it is being noticed, says Paradis.
“We’d also like to thank all of our member travel agents and agencies across Canada who are taking the initiative to show how invaluable travel agents have been throughout this crisis in a variety of creative tools. This has been helpful in our lobbying efforts,” she said.
ACTA SEEKING $3 BILLION FOR AGENCIES AND WORKERS
“While we are pleased with some of the financial supports announced by the federal government, ACTA is asking the federal government to support travel agency businesses and workers in the amount of $3 billion in financial aid to weather the storm. ACTA has advised the government that it expects that Canadian travel agencies be treated equally in any sector specific aid packages,” said Paradis.
She notes that in the U.S., travel agencies have been included in a $25 billion Economic Stabilization Loan for Airlines. This is in the form of loans, loan guarantees and other investments to support airlines, travel agencies and other related aviation businesses