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

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson kneels as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED: Vancouver Island paddle boarder’s orca encounter brings joy and outrage

Woman’s ‘best day’ criticized for disturbing the whales

Tofino’s library is currently located in the basement of the Tofino Legion building but talks are underway to build a brand new facility. (Andrew Bailey photo)
The District of Tofino has put new restrictions in place around alcohol at public events. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino puts new restrictions on alcohol at public events

Town’s council adopts Municipal Alcohol Policy.

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

Most Read