A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. The Canadian Transportation Agency says it has received more than 8,000 complaints about airlines since mid-March, an unprecedented figure for the five-and-a-half-month period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadians filed more than 8,000 complaints about airlines to agency since March

Canadian airlines have typically offered flight credit valid for two years after they cancel a trip

The Canadian Transportation Agency says it has received more than 8,000 complaints about airlines since mid-March, an unprecedented figure for the five-and-a-half-month period.

The total exceeds the number of complaints from all of 2018-19 and comes amid a prolonged customer backlash over a move by airlines to offer flight credit rather than refunds for most trips cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given that we are in the process of reviewing those complaints, it is not possible to identify specific issues raised in these complaints or to provide any kind of breakdown at this time. However, we expect a portion of these will relate to vouchers and refunds,” the agency said in an email.

The surge in complaints lines up directly with a more than 90 per cent plunge in passenger volume at Canadian carriers, suggesting reimbursements or flight cancellations rather than in-flight experiences play a prominent role.

Canadian airlines have typically offered flight credit valid for two years after they cancel a trip, leaving many customers concerned they will not feel comfortable flying for health or financial reasons within that time.

Since February, passengers have filed a handful of proposed class-action lawsuits and three petitions garnering more than 109,000 signatures that call for customer reimbursement.

In contrast to Canadian authorities, the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation have required airlines to refund passengers. The U.S. and European countries including France and Germany have also offered billions in financial relief to struggling carriers, while Ottawa has provided no industry-specific bailout to airlines.

The pandemic has devastated the airline industry, with billions of dollars in losses for Canadian carriers amid grounded flights and tight international borders.

Canadian airline revenues in 2020 will fall by $14.6 billion or 43 per cent from last year, according to estimates in May from the International Air Transport Association.

The complaints span mid-March — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a travel advisory on March 13 warning Canadians against trips abroad — to Aug. 26.

The agency did not specify an exact number of complaints.

READ MORE: Airlines dispute Dr. Henry’s claim they ‘very rarely’ give accurate COVID contact tracing info

READ MORE: WestJet says refusal to wear a mask could mean travel ban for a year

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Air TravelCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SS Bonnington steam whistle comes home to Nakusp

Shawn Pollard has donated the ship’s steam whistle to the Nakusp Rail Society on behalf his father

Trial of RCMP officer begins in Nelson’s Capitol Theatre

Jason Tait is charged with manslaughter after an incident in 2015

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

Kaslo councillor admits to ‘baiting’ member of public in email exchange

Kaslo Village Council to consider adopting code of conduct

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Most Read