By: Ian Stalker
A trio of Toronto-area travel agents is welcoming news that Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations have decided to provide client refunds and will also protect agent commissions for those whose travel plans were disrupted by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
And those agents are also hoping that the carrier’s competitors will follow suit.
Refunds and protection of commissions have been bones of contention between agents and airlines since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with agents stating an often-chaotic situation of postponements and cancellations last spring left them scrambling on behalf of clients without compensation from those their clients had been booked to travel with.
There have also been concerns that clients angered over their treatment by the manner the likes of airlines used when adjusting their operations to the pandemic might be hesitant about travelling again anytime soon.
The federal government recently announced an aid package for Air Canada that among other things requires the airline to issue refunds to those who booked a flight with the airline since February last year but saw their flights cancelled. The package will also have Air Canada restart suspended routes.
Passenger refunds are expected to begin later this month.
Paul Nielsen of Paragon Travel says the decisions by Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations are welcome news to a travel agent community in need of welcome news.
However, Nielsen said the announcements could have been handled in a manner that would have better served him and his colleagues.
“I am very happy for this tactic and feel that it will provide a lot of confidence in the industry and restore faith in those clients who have been denied refunds in the past, many times improperly denied by Air Canada,” he told Travel Courier. “I wish there had not been so much public talk about commissions as it blunts our move to service fees. Clients will feel we’re double-dipping because now they’ll believe all bookings carry a commission. That should have remained behind the kimono.”
Nielsen added that he hopes other airlines and tour operators will also agree to adopt Air Canada’s stances on refunds and commissions, although he’s leery of seeing the federal government acquiring a stake in Air Canada or other airlines.
Ethel Hansen-Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise suggested the moves by Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations were long overdue.
“The all-important issue of commission protection has been addressed,” she said. “Hallelujah! It was horrific to have the work that we did amount to worse than nothing with the dreaded commission recalls.
“Will WestJet, Sunwing and Transat follow suit? Who knows? Will they be offered the same deal (by Ottawa) as Air Canada to help them? Who knows? Air Canada seems to have the upper hand on (government) assistance.”
Rudolph Nareen said he wishes the federal government attached more conditions to the assistance it announced for Air Canada, such “as no bonuses.”
Nareen noted European airlines have to provide clients with full refunds for the likes of flight cancellations and can’t expect government assistance when having to do so.
Photos of Yves Lalumiere & Mylène Gagnon © Tourisme Montréal/Monic Richard