A Brandon, Man., woman will get a refund from Air Canada Vacations after she cancelled a trip St. Lucia in the Caribbean because of concerns about the Zika virus.
Samantha Dellezay, who is 15 weeks pregnant, and her husband booked their vacation in early January using 60,000 Air Miles. That was before the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency over concerns the mosquito-borne Zika virus could cause birth defects.
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The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends pregnant women consult their doctors about any travel to regions where Zika is present.
Saint Lucia is not one of the countries currently affected by Zika, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the virus is known to spread rapidly and Zika is present on a nearby island, Martinique.
"We had been warned by our health-care provider not to travel to that area because of the risk," said Dellezay.
At first no refund
The airline originally refused to provide a refund.
"It's really special circumstances, and the airline is not willing to do anything for us," Dellezay said on Wednesday morning, before getting an update that she would be refunded.
At first, the family was told they couldn't give their trip to others or change the destination of their vacation, she said.
According to Air Canada Vacation's website, the airline will refund trips if a woman is travelling to a list of countries affected by Zika and presents a note from a health-care provider.
"Basically the options they gave us today when I called was we wait and hope that Saint Lucia goes on that list — so wait and hope that a virus spreads to another country," she said.
"The other recommendation is that the whole family go and I stay behind," said Dellezay. "It's super upsetting."
Then on Wednesday afternoon, she got a call from the airline at first saying she would get a $600 credit per person but the cost was about $2,600 per person and the airline gave her until 5 p.m. to decide if she would take the offer.
But the airline told CBC she would get a full refund or an option to re-book without paying a penalty. After CBC made another inquiry, Air Canada said Dellezay and her family would get a full refund.
Dellezay said the experience has made her reluctant to book with Air Canada Vacations again.
Air Canada's full statement to CBC:
"Recognizing customers may have concerns, Air Canada was one of the first Canadian carriers to put in place a flexible booking policy for the Zika virus, based on the recommendations of health authorities such as the WHO and the PHAC. The Zika situation continues to evolve and our policy has changed with it in order to reflect and to account for the changing recommendations of the health authorities, as well as our customers' concerns. We continue to monitor and adjust our policy accordingly, including dealing with customers on a case by case basis as the need arises.
In this particular case, St. Lucia was not a country identified as a risk by authorities, however recognizing the concern of the customer, we will be offering the option to change plans with no change fee or to obtain a refund as per our policy."