‘Heartless’ airline slammed for refusal to refund pensioner
AN international airline giant has been condemned as "heartless" for refusing to refund $3528 to a Gold Coast pensioner suffering from severe emphysema.
Sharon Street, 63, rents in Molendinar with her husband Warren, an ex-Australian Army serviceman.
Last year they booked a "trip of a lifetime" with Air Canada, flying between Brisbane and Vancouver between May and June.
The plan was to head on from Vancouver to Alaska for a cruise with Princess Cruises.
Ms Street, who has stage four emphysema, said it was to be her last trip before she "kicks the bucket".
Her doctor had warned her about taking the 13-hour flight to Canada.
After COVID-19 hit airline travel, Air Canada, which has a market capitalisation of $3.9bn, cancelled Ms Street's flight on March 24.
The airline told Ms Street that because it was a non-refundable ticket she was not entitled to her money back.
Instead she was offered vouchers for the same amount spent on the flights.
"On the normal terms of a non-refundable ticket, should you cancel you are only entitled to a voucher in compensation for not turning up," Ms Street said. "But I did not cancel - they did."
Ms Street said Canadian legislation - specifically the Air Passenger Protection Regulations - obligated Air Canada to provide for a full refund regardless of its own policies. "If you have a non-refundable ticket they are only entitled to give you a voucher, but this says if they cancel for any reason within or outside of their control that you are entitled to a full refund."
Ms Street said Air Canada's repeated refusal to provide a refund had left her "livid".
"I am livid and I'm furious. I've already surpassed being disappointed," she said.
Ms Street said she had to battle to convince her doctor she could take the trip. "Originally I was disappointed that my trip of a lifetime did not happen because I know that was going to be it. I had to fight with my doctors to let me go.
"I had all these tests to make sure I would be right to do the flight even."
She said she struggled financially and the $3528 would be of great help during COVID-19.
Her case has been taken up by Dr Gabor Lukacs, of Canadian consumer rights group Air Passenger Rights.
Dr Lukacs said the law had been clear in Canada for the past 16 years.
"If a flight is cancelled for any reason (including reasons outside the airline's control), the airline must issue a cash refund," he said.
"This principle, which is rooted in the common law, was reaffirmed in four different regulatory decisions in the past."
Dr Lukacs said the Canadian Government was refusing to enforce the law.
Adam Glezer, a consumer rights advocate who runs the Facebook group Travel Industry Issues - The Need For Change for Australians, called Air Canada's decision "heartless".
"In my opinion Air Canada should be refunding everyone where they cancelled the flight," he said.
"I find it especially heartless in Sharon's case considering her condition.
"There are thousands and thousands of people in Sharon's position. They have paid good money, not received the service they paid for and are having their money held hostage by several airlines. It's a disgrace in my opinion."
Originally published as 'Heartless' airline slammed for refusal to refund pensioner