Federal support for battered airline industry contingent on customer refunds

Air Canada

Ottawa is preparing to give Canada’s pandemic-battered airline industry a helping hand but there is a string attached.

Any federal assistance would be contingent on airlines giving refunds to passengers who’ve had their flights cancelled.

Commercial airlines have been hit hard by COVID-19, with passenger levels down as much as 90 per cent thanks to a combination of travel restrictions and fear of catching the illness.

That has prompted airlines to furlough hundreds of pilots and technicians and discontinue dozens of regional routes since March.

They have also cancelled numerous pre-booked trips, offering passengers credits or vouchers instead of refunds.

Canadians have complained bitterly about not getting their money back.

The Canadian Transportation Agency received 8,000 complaints between mid-March and the end of August, most of which are believed to be related to refunds.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says talks with industry officials will begin later this week.