TORONTO — A report in the Toronto Star indicates that, according to Unifor president Jerry Dias, Air Canada has agreed to offer refunds for travellers out-of-pocket as a result of COVID-19 cancellations, as part of the bailout conditions.
The Star cites its interview that took place March 3 with Dias.
Offering refunds in the wake of COVID-19 has been one of the biggest conditions of Canada’s airlines receiving a financial assistance package from the federal government.
Air Canada has already paid out more than $1 billion in refundable tickets since the start of 2020.
When then-Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced on Nov. 8, 2020 that talks would begin between the government and the airlines on a financial assistance package, he said that refunds were crucial to the airlines receiving government aid. “Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure Canadians get their refunds,” Garneau said in his Nov. 8 announcement.
The federal government also wants assurances of regional connectivity. Garneau added at the time that “any assistance the Government of Canada provides will come with strict conditions to protect Canadians and the public interest.”
There’s been no official word of what the bailout will look like, however reports in recent days in the Globe and Mail indicated that discussions between the airlines and the Ministry of Finance are in the home stretch.
There have been positive indications from ACTA and other sources that travel agents will not be forgotten with the bailout, however the retail travel sector is still waiting to find out for sure. Travel agents face up to $200 million in commission recalls if mass refunds from Canada’s airlines proceed.
ACTA is asking that any federal government bailout of the airline industry include additional funds to cover recalled travel agent commissions, with a condition that travel agency commission on airline and tour packages can’t be recalled; and for the establishment of a fund to cover past bookings already recalled.
According to the Star, Dias said: “The precondition for receiving a federal aid package is that Air Canada and the other airlines will have to repay customers. I know that Air Canada has absolutely agreed to do that.”
Dias also told the Star that the bailout is close to being finalized: “I know that they’re very close. Based on the conversations I’ve had with the government and industry, I had already expected an announcement by now.”