Let me start off by saying, I have a soft spot for Canada and Canadians. First of all, I married a Canadian; she’s the most amazing person in the world and she also loves her country deeply. Secondly, even before I married Natalie, I had visited Canada numerous times and loved it – from the natural beauty to the cool and polite people.

But I started to get a bad taste in my mouth when Air Canada (AC), the country’s national airline, refused to refund customers’ money (including me), even after they canceled flights due to COVID.

I wrote a scathing post in May of 2020 entitled Why I’m Filing a DOT Complaint Against Air Canada since they refused to refund my money even though they were liable by law. I followed up two days later with an update, How I’m Getting My Money Back From Air Canada.

I ended up not filing a complaint with the US Department of Transportation because just before I filled out the form, I learned that my credit card had agreed to a chargeback. I called Chase and told them that Air Canada wouldn’t refund me and they issued a temporary credit to investigate it, and they later granted it.

I heard from multiple readers that they weren’t as lucky so I think it depended on their credit card company, when they bought the tickets and how long after the purchase they had asked for a chargeback.

Even though I didn’t file a complaint with the DOT, there were plenty who did, so many so that the DOT is now proposing a $25 million fine against Air Canada.

You would think the executives would have learned their lesson but foolish me, I decided to give them a second chance and it looks like I got burned. Listen to this new low by Air Canada.

Last night, my homesick wife, who is desperate to see her family (it’s been over a year and a half since she last hugged her mother, sister and niece, and over two years since she stepped foot in her beloved homeland because she was pregnant with our daughter and then COVID-19 hit), I decided to price out tickets for July 21 and Christmas.

I was looking at tickets for July 21 because we’re hoping that the Canadian border will open on that day, and Christmas, for obvious reasons. Prior to the pandemic, we almost always spent Christmas in Toronto and New Year’s in Hawaii. Not too shabby, eh?

Prices for July 21st were not in our budget but for Christmas, they were amazing, just $179 per person. The only reason I snagged them was because Air Canada has a 787-9 flying between LAX and YYZ and the flight was wide open, which meant the best seats were still available. They also had a sale on seat selections. I’m not too keen on paying for seat assignments but I no longer hold status on Air Canada or their partners.

I snagged four seats in the bulkhead (row 18) and paid the $59 a piece fee since it’s more space and really makes the flight that much more enjoyable, especially with two little kids.

I only booked them because I knew I had 24 hours (a DOT rule) to talk it over with my wife, who was already fast asleep.

The DOT rule states: “This notice provides guidance to U.S. and foreign air carriers regarding compliance with the customer service rule that requires carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty (the “24- hour reservation requirement”). The 24-hour reservation requirement is mandated by the Department of Transportation’s consumer rule “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections” (14 CFR 259.5(b)(4), 76 Fed. Reg. 23110, 23166, Apr. 25, 2011) and applies to all reservations made seven days or more prior to the flight’s scheduled departure time.1 To comply with the regulation, carriers may not deceive consumers about the 24-hour reservation requirement when consumers inquire about cancelling or changing a reservation within 24 hours of making or paying for that reservation.”


Before I hit purchase, Air Canada flaunted the DOT rule as a marketing ploy, with “Cancel within 24 hours of purchase without penalty. You will receive a full refund if you change your mind. Find out more.” See screenshot above which I took the following day after I learned I wouldn’t be getting refunded for my seats. I priced the above itinerary out for just one person, not four.

Well, guess what? After talking the flight details over with my wife and her mother in the morning, they felt it was a long shot that we would be traveling for Christmas because of the COVID variants and the fact that our young kids won’t be vaccinated. It will probably be just too risky anyway, which is also why I just canceled our flight to New York for tomorrow.


As you can see from the screenshot above, when I logged into my reservation to click cancel, this is where Air Canada sank to a new low. Air Canada said they will only refund $694 of my $931 purchase. “$694.00 will be credited to the original form of payment.”

SUMMARY
Air transportation charges – 592.00
Taxes, fees and charges –  102.00
Seat selection –  237.16
Total amount paid – 931.16

NON-REFUNDABLE FEES
Air transportation charges-0.00
Taxes, fees and charges-0.00
Seat selection – Expand-237.16
Total non-refundable fees-237.16
Total amount paid 931.16
Total non-refundable fees-237.16
BALANCE (REFUND) -US dollars $ 694 .00

Say what? Is Air Canada joking? They’re not only not going to give me a full refund but they’re not even offering the seat selection fee as a credit for future use. Insane, right?

Here’s what it said when I clicked cancel: “Your booking has been cancelled. We’re sorry to see you go. Your flight to Toronto (YYZ) has been cancelled, and you will receive a refund for $694.00, credited to the original form of payment. Please allow a minimum of three weeks (unless otherwise stated by applicable law) for your refund to be processed. You will receive an email confirmation once your refund has been processed.”

This is unacceptable and people need to be warned, as well as the DOT. I called Air Canada to make sure it’s not a computer glitch but the wait time is one hour and 37 minutes.

Not only will I file a complaint this time, but I also just called American Express for a chargeback. The representative I spoke to said she would open up a dispute but it can take six to eight weeks to be resolved.

My wife had made Nanaimo bars for Canada Day a few days ago and she offered me one while I was writing this post but I just couldn’t stomach it – Air Canada has left a seriously bad taste in my mouth. While we will definitely be going to Canada frequently once the pandemic is over and the border reopens, I will be looking for alternate ways to get there. I would rather have to make a connection on another carrier than fly nonstop on Air Canada. At this point, Air Canada will be my last resort.

UPDATE
Well, I don’t know if it was a computer glitch, a chargeback, or whether the folks at Air Canada read my story and did something about it, but I received a refund from AMEX for my seat assignments. Has this ever happened to you?

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38 Comments On "Air Canada Has Sunk To A New Low. Can You Believe They Are Pulling This Trick?"
  1. Juliet Pennington|

    Wow. I’m sorry you had to go through that, but thank you for the head’s up!

  2. A Canadian|

    Did you try to call Air Canada?
    I have found their agents to be very helpful during the pandemic.

  3. Lynn|

    I received a notice also from airlines that I would not be refunded whole amount after canceling within 24 hours, actually 1 hour). I expained to my credit card company and uploaded information including notice of no charge within 24 hours and my credit card company refunded whole amount.

  4. Thane Keith|

    We’re still out $1200 from a flight they cancelled last year. At first they only would give us a credit but then later they credited a card that I had cancelled with Chase. Chase refused the credit and now we are in a 2 month limbo with Air Canada while they figure it out. The original flight was in March of 2021 with the tickets purchase in August of 2020. I used to love Air Canada as YVR was our closest International airport even though I’m in the US. Here’s hoping they make things right.

  5. Lea|

    I don’t understand, why do you stay with Air Canada, when you could fly WestJet. I know there have been delayed refunds from them….but still way better and staff so much nicer. You puzzle me with your choices, is it all about what airplane you sit in.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I chose Air Canada because they were flying a widebody 787 nonstop between LAX and YYZ.

  6. Cathleen C|

    My daughter has had several negative experiences with Air Canada (pre-pandemic) and we have never flown with them. After reading this article, probably never will. We work way too hard for our money to put up with frustrating experiences like this. Good luck getting your money back.

  7. MarkB|

    My one and only flight on Air Canada was a total disaster when they changed flights outbound and didn’t give me the upgraded seats I paid for, finally putting us in row 29 outbound from Vancouver to Toronto and a middle and window seat in row 15 on our return (I booked aisle seats). When writing my review on Trip Advisor, I suggested anyone flying in Canada use West Jet, the airline friends from Saskatchewan use. They and their friends refuse to fly Air Canada.

  8. Dave Ashby|

    Hay Johnny,

    I totally concur with you. The Canadian Government has baled out financially A.C. on numerous occasions over the years. When we fly to the states we always fly WEST JET. Not only are they customer friendly, but I have found that their seat sales are better. Course, I am not sure you could get a direct flight from LAX to YYZ on West Jet

  9. Douglas Lock|

    Nanaimo bars and Air Canada are not related! Avoid Air Canada but please enjoy the Nanaimo Bars. Canadian Date Bars/Cake is also a wonderful treat.

  10. JOANNE REDWOOD|

    Good to know this. I didn’t know foreign airlines had to comply with DOT??? I have had the same experience and did not fight it.

  11. Christina Bernstein|

    Johnny eat the Nanaimo bars. Life is short, you will get the credit, AMEX will go to bat for you. Don’t stress these are little things. Xoxo to you and your lovely family.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      ;-)
      I know I will. I just want to make sure others don’t get tricked

  12. Harvey Reibel|

    I will never fly on that airline

  13. Agile.Travel|

    Completely agree Air Canada never operates fairly (or legally). I never prebook with them, except for award tickets (refundable option for more points).

    We also share being married to Canadians. So Air Canada is occasionally mandated. It’s also has some beautiful national parks.

  14. Charlie|

    I love Canada. I love people who are Canadians. But Air Canada has been a bait switching, disappointing company every time I’ve ever had any contact with them. To that, I give you, “Air Canada:”

    Air Canada!
    A sad and crummy brand!
    Pure hate, not love, in all of us command.

    With glowering eyes we seethe and cry,
    Your sneaky extra fees!

    From far and wide,
    Air Canada, a brand that saddens me.

    Just keep your cash; your thieving refund fee!
    Air Canada, a brand that saddens me.
    Air Canada, a brand that saddens me.

  15. Wayne Emde|

    I’ve flown Air Canada to Japan and to Europe many times without incident (and their overseas flight crews are some of the best). I had booked flights to Japan last year for myself and my grandson, and after some back and forth, I was fully refunded for the flights. That said, your experience is absolutely not acceptable. Westjet also has had many complaints lately, and I think the positive response most people attribute to that airline is a result of its early years. Thank you for the post.

  16. Patrick James|

    Yes. This happened to me. The operator I spoke with was clearly ill-informed and would not refund my ticket… even within 24hrs (24 hrs from where/when I’d booked it) She was in the east and said I was too late. I hung up and called back and the next customer service person was very nice immediately canceled and credited me back the full amount of the ticket. I’ve had problems every time I’ve tried or have flown that state run airline. Sad.

  17. Reed|

    Next time fly Imelda Marcos Airways !!

  18. Dick B|

    Those with complaints about Air Canada are preaching to a two-person choir. My wife and I flew AC from Harrisburg, PA to Toronto to Calgary (round trip) (in 2017)–for the first and last time. My complaints are not financial, but about as unbelievable. My tales of woe involve MULTIPLE mind blowing incidents on EACH of our 4 flight legs, so I will not write an epistle. Just a note on the first incident. We were sitting in the Harrisburg terminal, waiting to depart on our Canadian journey. We were already about 10 minutes beyond our departure time when a lady came on the loudspeaker to advise us that our airplane had just taken off from Toronto (!), which is a bit over an hour from Harrisburg. And believe me, that incident was perhaps the least aggravating of many further incidents. I cannot imagine how the entity could possibly continue to be in business if it were not the flag carrier for its country. Having said all of this, I must nevertheless say that, while in Canada the trip was simply majestic and the Canadians were as friendly as anyone could hope for.

  19. Anonymous|

    Try West Jet! Flies directly from Orange County!

  20. MARK R HARDING|

    It would appear to me that since you paid for specific seats on that flight, and Air Canada will not issue a refund to you for those seats, that you still “own” the right to those seats on that particular flight, and the airline is therefore not entitled to sell those seats again, or in fact, assign them to anyone.
    Your documentary proof that the airline recognizes that the seat assignments are still yours provides you with a cause of action should they do anything but allow those seats to remain empty.
    If you want to raise a stink, I would file suit to prevent them from selling, allocating, or otherwise allowing anyone to access those seats unless and until they actually compensate you for giving up the right to those seats.
    Deceptive practice!
    Good luck.

  21. denis charles|

    sorry you have to go thru all this hell to get your money back

    i avoid AC like the plague anybody else will do in CDA we only have 3 choices WJ/PORTER/AC

    IF I HAVE A FLIGHT OUT OF YYZ/OR YUL I TAKE THE TRAIN THEN A AIRLINE OF MY CHOICE.

    Best of luck,

  22. Dennis|

    when flying to Australia a few years back I flew Qantas on the 380 out of LAX. I commented to my neighbour, a pilot for Air Canada. about the great service and all the snacks and drinks available at the back of the aircraft. He generally flies the 787 from YVR to Mel. His reply “the only thing he gets when he goes to the back during flight is attitude.” I always choose Cathay or Qantas when traveling trans Pacific.

  23. Air Canada SucksHard it|

    Air Canada tried this with me when they cancelled out flights to Japan last December (the trip was slated for March). I asked them for a refund and they refused, giving me a sob story about how hard it was for airlines and they thanked me for understanding. I heard from some customers that their Twitter support was better and more flexible. But I found it even worse. I gave them one final chance and warned them I would get the money back via chargeback, they refused and were very rude, and a few shorts weeks later, Chase refunded every penny. I had also filed a DOT dispute and several weeks after I got my refund, Air Canada emailed me and said they were refunding tickets, I will never fly that garbage airline again.

  24. Paul Jacobelli|

    You must know that many – maybe even a majority of – Canadians can’t stand Air Canada for the near fraudulent policies they drop on us when we travel.

    Your Canadian Brother-in-Law

  25. Jennifer|

    This is terrible. I really hope you get your money back. I’ve had many issues with Air Canada, but I can’t name a single airline that is any better. I’ve had issues with them all. (I’m a dual citizen living in Canada with family in the States, and normally I travel 5-6 times per year.)
    I know you don’t need to hear this, but Air Canada does not equal Canada (just as Donald Trump does not equal U.S. although there were SO many Canadians that became anti-American between 2016-2020.

    Nanaimo bars are delicious! :)

  26. OCTraveler|

    I experienced the same issue with the seat selection fee in 2020 when I cancelled a flight. Utterly unacceptable.

  27. K|

    “Can you believe it?” Well yes actually, I can. Imagine how those of us who live in Canada feel, having Air Canada as almost literally our only option for flying some destinations. They have despicable business practices and are way overpriced.

  28. Stacey Wittig|

    I’ve had two negative experiences with Air Canada. Their bureaucratic organization does not empower employees to help customers. Oh, and btw, I’ve only flown on them two times.

  29. Benita|

    Southwest also does NOT refund Earlybird charges if you change the flight.

  30. Shirley|

    Did you try tweeting them? Their short refund is ridiculous!

  31. G Norton|

    My Air Canada experience, flew them Toronto to Halifax for a 5 day trip, checked 1 bag each me and my wife, mine never showed up, we stayed at the Delta Barrington in downtown Halifax and the hotel staff knew I was expecting it to be delivered. About 6 hours after we checked out I got an text from the hotel staff that they attempted to deliver it. About a week later I was finally able to pick it up at the airport. At the time they were flying about 5 or 6 flights a day between YYZ and YHZ.

  32. Dru Pearson|

    Here is an example of how American Airlines has also sunk to a new low.

    My husband and I were in our offices on 7 July, on opposite sides of the house, using our own computers and communicating every move via cell phone. This approach has worked well in the past when each of us is using his/her own frequent flyer miles to reserve a trip.

    We were pleased to find a round-trip flight from TUS to RDU for 7-14 December, for only 25,500 miles. We each clicked, “Yes,” that was the flight we wanted, and proceeded to follow directions which took us to another page to enter our frequent flyer information. Once we’d done that, we were taken to the page to pay our $11.20 taxes and fees to reserve our tickets.

    To our dismay, when we reached the page asking for our credit card information, my price had jumped to 28,000 miles plus $11.20 while my husband’s was now 30,500 miles plus $11.20!

    Thinking that some glitch had occurred which American Airlines would surely sort out in our favor, we did not pay for the tickets, but put them on hold instead. We wanted the tickets for the promised 25,500 miles, not 28,000 or 30,500.

    After waiting for our “appointment” with an American Airlines representative, we spoke to a woman named Sade on Friday, 9 July, at 1:45. She said there was nothing she could do, so we asked to speak to a supervisor.

    Supervisor Deborah Evans informed us that these were “live” tickets and maybe the price changed because lots of other people were getting the same flights at 9:00 pm Pacific time on 7 July. Or, she suggested, if we had “locked in the price” by putting the tickets on hold, we could have purchased them later for the 25,500 mile price. Neither of those explanations makes sense to us, nor was either explanation on the AA site.

    This is the first time in over fifty years of flying with American Airlines that this has happened to us; our approach using our own computers and our own frequent flyer accounts has worked beautifully for us in the past. We’ve never had the miles change from one page to the next.

    We have written to AA in hopes they can restore the miles we lost in this transaction and our trust in American Airlines.

  33. B. Berg|

    I have been trying to get an $820 refund for months from Air Canada. The only solution was to file a dispute on the charges made in Sept. 2020 with my credit card company, and Capital One credited my account immediately for the full amount. This is awful advertising for Air Canada, but great advertising for Capital One.

  34. Heather R|

    I had to cancel a flight due to covid with them and was just offered an ecredit and it was fine because I was going to go again and it wasn’t much but they then offered not long after a full refund. I was pleasantly surprised. My problem with them has more to do with them breaking their own layover rules and giving away seats overseas before we even got to the gate.
    My problem child with this nonrefundable seat nonsense is Delta. I wasn’t told until later that i could upgrade to Comfort+ after buying preferred seats and they wouldn’t refund OR apply it to the new fee to do so, even within a few hours of buying. I think I need to file the complaint you mention above about this as well. Thanks!

  35. Marty|

    I was scheduled to fly with Air Canada in Apr, 2020 round trip from Dubai to Memphis that got cancelled due to COVID. I was given e credit but never was able to use so finally requested full credit of my purchase. I just got emails for my refunds for each leg of the flight. I was credited $18 on 2 legs and $37 for 2 legs so total $110 for a $1200 + ticket. Now trying to talk with someone from Air Canada but no one answering call on hold over 30 minutes. Guess now will fill dispute with American Express and file claim with DOT.

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