TORONTO — Air Canada’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer – and newly named ACV President – Lucie Guillemette was joined by Air Canada’s VP Canada & USA Sales, Lisa Pierce, and ACV’s VP, Nino Montagnese, for a town hall yesterday for the travel trade.
The virtual event aimed to bring travel agent partners up to speed after the whirlwind of announcements earlier this week from the two companies.
On April 12 Air Canada and the federal government announced Air Canada’s $5.9 billion financial assistance package, with the offer of refunds going out to passengers who had travel plans impacted by the pandemic and cancellations.
As agents well know by now, the deal also included a commitment to not recall commissions for those refunded tickets.
On April 13 ACV confirmed that it won’t be recalling commissions either.
Both announcements elicited cheers and much relief from the retail travel sector, from front-line agents to agent organizations including ACTA and ACITA.
Eligible Air Canada passengers who purchased a non-refundable ticket for travel on or after February 1, 2020 but did not fly can now obtain a refund from the carrier by submitting a request online or with their travel agent. The policy covers Air Canada tickets and Air Canada Vacations packages purchased before April 13, 2021 for flights cancelled either by the airline or by the customer for any reason.
From its Air Canada Flash info sheet sent out to agents yesterday, Air Canada outlined that refunds are applicable on:
- 014 Issued tickets – system wide
- Future Travel Credits – unused and partially unused
- Customers in receipt of Air Canada Travel Voucher (ACTV), Aeroplan points and eCoupons (excludes eCoupons issued for goodwill compensation).
- To customers whose flight was cancelled or who voluntarily cancelled their flight for any reason.
The Air Canada Flash also lets agents know that their Time of Ticketing commission will not be recalled when the refund is processed, provided agents process the refund within the original booking channel (GDS or aircanada.com/agents); and the refund goes back to the original form of payment and processed by July 12, 2021.
In addition to the expanded refund policy announced April 13, customers will continue to have the option of accepting a fully transferrable Air Canada Travel Voucher (ACTV) with no expiry date or converting the value of their ticket to Aeroplan points with a 65% bonus. Customers who have already accepted an ACTV or Aeroplan points will have the option to exchange these
for a refund to the original form of payment, including for the unused portion of any ACTV issued or in cases where a partial refund was provided.
Passengers need to request their refund by June 12, 2021, with the goal of processing all refunds by July 12, 2021. There will be no refunds for any tickets in chargeback status.
“LAST YEAR’S BEEN JUST AS DIFFICULT FOR YOU AS FOR US”
At yesterday’s town hall Guillemette reconfirmed Air Canada’s newly announced commission protection policy on the COVID-19 refunds.
“We will not be recalling commission,” she said. “We know last year’s been just as difficult for you as it has been for us.”
Guillemette added that agents have been top of mind for Air Canada throughout the months-long discussions with the government, and the year-plus of navigating the pandemic. “Please know that in every decision we made, we tried our best to consider, in all the implications, the impact on our travel agent partners.”
She said Air Canada is “extremely pleased that we can move forward with this refund file. We realize some PNRs will be more complex. But we are absolutely committed to getting this going.”
Guillemette says the COVID-19 refunds process impacts more than 2 million PNRs.
Guillemette urged agents to get in touch with Air Canada if they need help throughout the refunds process. “We want to make sure we hear your questions and concerns,” she said.
REFUND PROCESS NOW LIVE
Air Canada’s consumer website now has ‘Get your refund started’ messaging right at the top of its homepage. Clicking on the link brings users to a page with options and a list of FAQs.
The site’s refund capability went live at 8 a.m. yesterday morning, Air Canada’s VP Canada & USA Sales, Lisa Pierce, told agents.
“We do realize the tremendous effort this will require from you, with very little time to prepare,” said Pierce, adding that Air Canada’s sales force is mobilized to help the airline’s agent partners.
“It’s been a very long year and we know you’re taking great care of our mutual customers. Thank you very much,” said Pierce.
ACV’s website also now has prominent messaging at the top of its homepage for customers seeking refunds.
ACV’s revised policy covers trips cancelled by ACV or by the customer. Customers have the option to request a refund for any reason if their booking was made before April 13, 2021 for travel on or after February 1, 2020. Commissions are protected.
ACV’s VP, Nino Montagnese, said ACV wanted to recognize “the hard work of the industry, facing challenge after challenge after challenge” over the past year.
“We will come out of this better and stronger,” said Montagnese. “Travel is going to come back.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO TRAVEL’S RESTART
Air Canada’s sun flights are currently suspended until April 30, 2021, after a request from the federal government. Transat, Sunwing and WestJet also suspended their sun flights, and all three have indicated new projected start-up dates beyond April 30. Transat has targeted June 23. Sunwing is also saying June 23 for sun flights to restart, and domestic flights to/from Newfoundland to B.C. And last night WestJet announced a restart date of June 4.
Canada’s extensive travel restrictions currently include the advisory against all non-essential travel, and the PCR test requirements and the 14-day quarantine, including the 3-day hotel quarantine, for international travel.
While no end date was ever given for the hotel quarantine measure, announced Jan. 29, 2021 along with the sun flight suspensions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has consistently said that measures to keep Canadians safe will be in place for as long as it takes. Meanwhile the Canada-U.S. border is closed until April 21 and will almost certainly stay closed while Canada deals with the third wave.
Guillemette said: “We expect to hear in the next week or so if the hotel quarantine will be extended a little bit longer, maybe until the end of May. By the June / July timeframe it should be easier to travel in Canada. Have we heard any confirmation of that? No, but that is our assumption. For international travel, we’re looking at the end of summer.”
She added: “I cannot stress enough how anxious we are to welcome guests back on our airplanes.” She also said that seeing other countries reopen is reason for optimism. “The acceleration of the vaccination program makes us hopeful, and seeing how quickly demand comes back in other countries [that have started to reopen], that is also reason to be hopeful.”
Guillemette told agents that despite the formidable challenges faced for more than a year, the end is in sight. “We can now start looking ahead to brighter days,” she said, adding: “I want to sincerely thank you for all of your support over the past year.”