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

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

Edwin S Richards Elementary. Google Maps street-view image.
COVID-19 exposure at Edwin S. Richards Elementary in Mission

Parents received letter on Dec. 3, advising of exposure on Nov. 17, 18, 19, 20 and 23

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

Jay Matte (right), president of Pressland Printing in downtown Mission, passes a customer her purchase. Many local businesses say the new mandatory mask order is a positive step to help protect customers and staff alike. / Kevin Mills Photo
Mission businesses, workers say they’re happy with new mask mandate

Most say they’ve had little problem enforcing the of new rules

Jag Deol, owner of Sangam Restaurant and Catering, is collecting non-perishable food items for the St. Joseph's Food Bank at both his restaurant locations in Mission. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Indian restaurant asks for food-bank donations when Missionites pick up take-out orders

Sangam Restaurant and Catering hosting food drive until Dec. 20, will match all donations made

Kenny (left) and Bobby Braich, the Braich family estate’s representatives, will have to pay $676,000 to their former estate lawyer, James Carphin, for legal work dating from December 2004 to October 2010. / Patrick Penner Photo
Former lawyer for Braich Family Estate wins case over unpaid legal debts in B.C. Supreme Court

Braich family recently in dispute with District of Mission over failed development deal

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Surrey Pretrial centre in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Pretrial hit with human rights complaint over mattress

The inmate who lodged the complaint said he needed a second mattress to help him manage his arthritis

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Most Read