Changes to airlines mean someone might be in the middle seat
OTTAWA -- Starting July 1, airlines are going to sell the entire plane - meaning, the middle seat might have someone in it. You can try and get a refund, but experts say it’s not that easy.
Rose Buettel says she was looking forward to seeing her family in Europe this summer.
“A lot of elderly relatives that I don’t know if I’ll be able to see that much longer,” she said.
But after her flight was cancelled due to COVID-19, she was offered a voucher instead of a refund.
“They insisted on vouchers," Buettel said.
"My concern about that, is that the cost of the flight when we choose to rebook may be different - people are saying it might be much higher.”
Nick Mitilineos also had plans to fly with his family to see relatives; his trip to Greece was cancelled, and Air Canada gave him an option,
“You could take your money back, but it would cost you $300 per ticket,” Mitilineos said.
He took the hit on one ticket, but accepted vouchers for the remaining two.
“If you buy something, and you don’t get it, you get your money back…We still can’t use those vouchers.”
And anyone that has a voucher might be concerned with changes being made this week by Airlines. Air Canada and Westjet will no longer be physically distancing passengers, by keeping the middle seat empty.
They say they’re relying on what they’re calling enhanced travel procedures and cleaning protocols, such as temperature checks, virtual line-ups, requiring face coverings, and additional air filters.
“The airlines are doing it for profit - they would like to be able to sell more seats,” said Gábor Lukács, the president and founder of The Canadian Air Passenger Rights organization.
Lukács says if you’re not comfortable in flying, get a refund.
“If you bought a ticket under the assumption that there will be physical distancing on board, and now the airline is changing the [terms of service] that they’re delivering, you are entitled to a refund - you will have to fight for it hard.”
He says to be persistent with the airline, and if you used a credit card - try and go through them to get a refund; but, do so before accepting a voucher from the airline.
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Air Canada says its given out over $1 billion dollars in refunds already this year.
“If the fare is a refundable fare, then we will refund it if asked … If it is a non-refundable ticket the normal rules apply, and if passengers booked directly with Air Canada, we will in addition to allowing a free change of flight also offer the option of a credit, which has no expiry date and is transferrable, or Aeroplan Miles with a bonus," the statement said.
Doctor Abdu Sharkawy is an infectious diseases expert, and says it’s important for Airlines to be flexible and give you to the option to not fly if you’re sick.
He also says that allowing someone in the middle seat isn’t making much of a difference.
“The difference between sitting right next to somebody and having one seat between you and another person is probably not going to mean the difference between acquiring and not acquiring COVID-19," Sharkawy said.
But he adds that people should take into consideration the importance of the trip.
“I would have to think how important is the flight that I’m getting on to be honest with you; I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to get on a flight knowing the situation we’re in right now."