To help passengers and survive from the current pandemic, airlines have issued waivers for free changes and cancellations. Some airlines, such as Air Canada, have been “smart” about balancing between reducing financial losses and providing help to the passengers.
From the airlines’ perspective, companies worry about if they are still in business after this pandemic fades. At the same time, for the consumer, they would like to have their money back if the airline cannot provide the services promised, regardless of the reasons.
Not to forget, Air Canada just had a reservation system upgrade, which has caused a call centre pandemic on its own. Since last November, the call centre staff have been on an intensive “stress test” workload. In my opinion, Air Canada/Aeroplan call centre might be the most challenging number to get hold of someone in the country.
Cash or EMD
(Electronic Miscellaneous Document)
The primary issue between airlines and passengers is whether airlines refund passenger cash or voucher if the airline cancels the flight due to the virus situation. While airline companies will try to hold on that cash as long as possible, the passengers would like to have their money back as they may need to use it somewhere else during the unstable times.
Furthermore, airliners’ EMD comes typically with only one-year validity, which is even less favourable to the passengers. The airline will have no issue to extend the EMD, given the situation, it is still a burden for regular passengers to hold on to something that has no use for them at this moment.
I support the passengers to get their money back in cash, as they may have lost their job or getting less income than before, where extra cash can always come in handy. Also, according to the mass media, a lot of people are living by paycheque by a paycheque.
What has Air Canada been doing?
The very first thing AC did was to encourage people to buy tickets and saying they would give people free cancellation and waive the change fee. Admittedly, it was a brilliant marketing effort to acquire more cash from people.
It made people feel that you can book any flights now and you can change these flights for free if your plan changed.
It will be tough to use your voucher (EMD) at full value.
You will either forfeit some money if you booked a trip that has less value than your EMD, which Air Canada will not refund you the residual value of your voucher.
In another scenario, if your desired new flight is more expensive, then you will have to pay the difference between your old ticket and the new one.
In both scenarios, you are losing money!
Other airlines, which also offer EMD to their customers, like Delta Airline, who gives cutomers credit, if the new flight is cheaper than the original booking.
Airlines are struggling globally in 2020. Asian airlines have more generous policies for passengers who have to cancel their tickets. The North American counterparts are not very much so.
The Canadian Transportation Agency also announced that that they would allow the airline to refuse to refund cash for their passengers if the travel disruption was due to the COVID-19.
The bottom line is, do not book speculatively; if CTA is not on your side, gather up with Gabor and prepare to sue after we survived from this pandemic.