ASTA is calling upon Air Canada to reverse a policy of not paying out refunds on U.S. flights it cancels. 

“Air Canada’s current policy denying refunds represents a substantial and unexpected departure from its past policy of providing full refunds under similar circumstances, which it now characterizes as merely a ‘goodwill gesture,’” the Society said on Wednesday. 

According to Department of Transportation data, there were 969 refund-related complaints about Air Canada during April, the most of any foreign airline and more than all U.S. airlines except United and American. 

Overall, consumer complaints about refunds spiked from less than 100 in April 2019 to more than 17,000 this April as many airlines took steps to avoid returning money paid by customers for flights that were eventually canceled due to the Covid-19 crisis. The April data is the most recent that has been released by the DOT. 

Airlines’ recalcitrance to pay out refunds led the DOT to issue an April 3 enforcement notice, telling airlines that they continue to be obligated to make refunds available for U.S. flights that they cancel. The order applies to any carrier, domestic or foreign. 

In a June 26 regulatory filing, however, Air Canada contended that the enforcement order is a guidance document only, and that since the order was not the result of a formal rulemaking procedure, it does not have force of law. The carrier also contended that the DOT has no authority over transactions made outside the U.S.

The airline made those arguments as part of a formal petition that the DOT decline to take up a refund enforcement proceeding requested by a customer. 

In a statement Wednesday, ASTA said it applauds airlines that are honoring the DOT mandate on refunds despite the difficult circumstance they face. 

“By doing the right thing for the affected passengers, abiding by the established rules and promptly providing refunds for canceled flights when requested, Air Canada can maintain the trust and confidence of both the agency community and the traveling public as a whole,” the Society said.

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