Nfld. & Labrador

Air Canada customers struggle to get refunds for cancelled Labrador routes

After slashing routes in Labrador, Air Canada is now offering customers credits for flights they cannot use.

St. John's man initially denied refund after booking ticket day before routes cancelled

Air Canada axed 30 routes across Canada on June 30 as it struggled with pandemic-related losses. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)

After slashing routes in and out of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and pulling out of Wabush all together, Air Canada is now offering customers credits for flights they cannot use.

Mark Greene purchased two tickets for his children to fly from St. John's to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to see their grandparents. One day after buying them, Air Canada announced they were cancelling the route, effective immediately.

Before speaking with CBC, Greene had $1,800 worth of flight credits with no way to get his kids to Labrador, aside from dishing out more money to book on another airline.

"The problem is, I don't have another $1,800," Greene told CBC's Labrador Morning. "The money I have is tied up with Air Canada. So, I'd just like my money back. I don't think I'm asking anything outrageous."

After five days of calling the airline, and on the same day his interview aired on Labrador Morning, Air Canada refunded his money. Greene plans to book with PAL Airlines.

Greene said he feels it was disingenuous of Air Canada to even allow him to buy the ticket on June 29, when the route was cancelled the following day.

Air Canada slashed 30 routes across Canada, including seven in Newfoundland and Labrador, on June 30.

"When I booked those, obviously the decision had been made," Greene said. "There must have been meetings at the higher levels for weeks, maybe months about suspending these routes."

A lot of [people] unfortunately just cannot afford to have $1,000 held up in credits they can't even use.- MacKenzie Perry

In a statement, Air Canada said it was maintaining a flight from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Halifax. However, Greene has been unable to rebook on that route and a travel agent has told Labrador Morning that the route is suspended until at least Aug. 1.

A spokesperson for Air Canada said the airline is reaching out to all affected travellers to find the best solutions. That likely will not involve changing its plans to cancel routes.

"What must also be understood is that the profitability of the regional network depends on connections to the domestic and international network," the spokesperson said. "Regional routes cannot be maintained with local traffic alone."

Worries in Wabush

MacKenzie Perry is in a similar situation, stuck with a $1,000 credit from a flight she booked for her son to attend a medical appointment in St. John's.

He was due to fly out of Wabush on an Air Canada flight that booked before the airline announced it was pulling out of Wabush all together.

Perry said she's lucky that the appointment isn't urgent, and their financial situation isn't dire. The worst case scenario would be rebooking the appointment for a later date using PAL Airlines.

She said there are plenty of others in Labrador who need to travel for medical appointments that won't be as fortunate.

"A lot of them unfortunately just cannot afford to have $1,000 held up in credits they can't even use," she said.

Perry also handles flight bookings for the company she works for, which uses some fly-in workers. She said right now they are trying to figure out challenges for an employee in New Brunswick, another province hit hard by Air Canada's cancellations.

"We don't even know how we're going to be able to bring him back and keep him on," Perry said.

After several days of trying to reach customer service agents, Perry is frustrated, but said she wasn't giving up on getting a refund.

"I really hope that Air Canada listens to this and hears the voices of people in the Lab West region and does what they can to help out," she said. "Best case scenario, they'll come back to our community because it is something needed with our isolation in the area."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning


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