Act quickly: Air Canada relents, will finally refund canceled flights

Apr 13, 2021

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Some say patience is a virtue.

Well, if you’ve been holding out hope that Air Canada will refund a ticket that was canceled due to the pandemic, then patience has paid off. The Montreal-based carrier is finally relenting.

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Air Canada refunds for canceled flights

Despite nearly a year of denying refunds for canceled flights, the carrier has come full circle. Effective immediately, all non-refundable flights purchased before April 13, 2021, for travel on or after Feb. 1, 2020 that were canceled — for any reason — are eligible for a refund. This includes tickets that were voluntarily canceled — not just those that the airline axed.

“Customers can now submit refund requests online or through their travel agent and we are committed to processing refunds as fast as possible,” said Air Canada chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette in a statement.

To claim your refund, you’ll want to head to now. The form will accept submissions until June 12, 2021, just under two months from now. If you are eligible, I’d recommend getting your request in now, since the airline will likely get flooded with requests over the coming days.

You’ll receive the travel funds back to your original form of payment. This policy also applies to Air Canada Vacations packages.

If you booked through a travel agency, you’ll need to contact them directly to arrange a refund. Air Canada has authorized all travel agencies to process refunds, and it will not recall any sales commissions on refunded tickets.

New flexible booking policy

Going forward, the carrier is also implementing a new booking policy for tickets purchased on or after April 13, 2021.

Refunds will be granted only when the airline cancels or reschedules your flight by more than three hours. That’s why I’d recommend waiting until the last minute to cancel your ticket, in case the flight ultimately ends up getting delayed or canceled right before departure.

Alternatively, customers can select an Air Canada travel voucher or Aeroplan points with a 65% bonus during irregular operations.

If you’re making voluntary changes, the standard fare rules apply. Most tickets are non-refundable and you’ll need to check your ticket for a possible change fee.

For all new or existing bookings made through May 31, 2021, for travel until May 31, 2022, Air Canada is offering a one-time change-fee waiver in case you need to adjust your travel plans.

Why the change is happening now

For many TPG readers, this change is great news. When I covered the change and cancellation beat during the height of the pandemic, I’d hear from countless readers about nightmares with Air Canada.

I’m not alone. The U.S. Department of Transporation also received thousands of complaints about Air Canada’s stingy refund policy.

According to the DOT, you’re entitled to a refund for a canceled flight if your flight is to, from or within the United States. Air Canada denied refunds for affected flights and “believed that our position is consistent with U.S. law having examined this question in depth.”

So, why the change of heart?

Well, the airline just secured a significant financial package from the Canadian government that includes up to approximately $1.4 billion CAD ($1.1 billion) earmarked for traveler refunds.

In addition to committing to the revised refund policy, Air Canada has also agreed to resume flights to many regional destinations that were suspended due to the pandemic, maintain employment at levels no lower than those on April 1, 2021 and other concessions.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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