Ottawa says federal support for airline industry contingent on refunding customers


OTTAWA — The federal government says it will make any new support for Canada’s airline industry during the COVID-19 pandemic contingent on refunds for passengers whose flights were cancelled.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau laid out the requirement today as he announced that Ottawa will launch talks with the industry this week.

Canada’s commercial airlines have been hit hard by COVID-19, with passenger levels down as much as 90 per cent thanks to a combination of travel restrictions and fear about catching the illness.

Garneau says Ottawa is ready to respond to the sector’s pleas for assistance by providing loans and other support to help the country’s air carriers and airports weather the pandemic.

But he says the government will place strict conditions on any support, including requiring airlines to refund what is believed to be millions of dollars in previously booked tickets and protecting regional routes.

Many airlines have offered passengers credits for trips cancelled because of the pandemic, saying they cannot afford full refunds, and have cancelled some regional flights to save money.