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Flight cancellations and refunds: All you need to know

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you’ll be ready.

Your upcoming flight is cancelled and your mind is racing everywhere. Flight cancellations and delays can cause a lot of stress if you’re not sure of what to do. We want you to be prepared in case this happens to you the next time you travel, whether your flight is cancelled in Canada or abroad. Here are steps you can take when your flight is cancelled or your airline goes under.

Please note: The information below was last updated December 11, 9 a.m. EST. Please check the Government of Canada website for the latest COVID-19 updates and travel advisories. 

A guide to flight cancellations and delays

How do I check for flight cancellations or delays?

To keep informed about potential flight delays and cancellations, go to the website of the airport you are flying out of and search for flight schedules. Type in your airline, location or flight number. You will find the most up to date information for the status of your flight. Ensure you are also keeping tabs on travel alerts for the airline you are flying with. Alternatively, keep checking your email, because airlines will usually email you should schedule changes arise.

What happens if my flight is cancelled or delayed in Canada?

It will likely be easier to find another flight within Canada if you are stuck in the country. In general, airlines must ensure that you return to your final destination if your flight path has been altered. When a flight is cancelled, or once there has been a three-hour delay, the operating airline must make alternate travel arrangements free of charge.

According to the Canadian Transportation Agency, the type of delay or flight cancellation depends on the airline’s level of control in the given situation. The specific situation will determine how much compensation you get as a passenger.

Within the airline’s control

A situation within the airline’s control could include decisions made with the day-to-day operations, such as staff issues or low demand. If this occurs, airlines must communicate key information, pay compensation for the inconvenience and offer alternative travel arrangements or a refund.

Within the airline’s control, but required for safety

Within the rules and standards set by the Canadian Aviation Regulations, a flight can be delayed or cancelled for safety reasons. In these situations, the airline does not have to compensate passengers, but must communicate with you and meet the other obligations required for situations under the airline’s control.

Outside the airline’s control

This means a flight is cancelled due to security, medical and weather emergencies, in accordance with guidelines made by the relative authorities. In these cases, the airline does not have to compensate passengers. But they must ensure passengers can return to their final destination as soon as possible, free of charge.

a couple sitting at their table planning on their laptop
Flight Cancellations and Refunds

What happens if my flight is cancelled or delayed while I’m abroad?

If you find yourself stranded abroad when your flight is cancelled, your most important point of action is to be in contact with the nearest Canadian embassy. After contacting the embassy, call or email your airline or online travel agency to evaluate their options of rebooking, reimbursing and redeeming your flight.

It’s also good practice to register as a Canadian Abroad before your trip so that the Government has record of where you are and can notify you in case of an emergency abroad or at home.

What do I do if my flight is cancelled or delayed?

Don’t panic

We understand how frustrating and stressful this scenario must be. These feelings of stress and anxiety are completely valid, but just remind yourself that this situation is out of your hands and that of the airport staff. If your flight is cancelled, remain calm and follow these next steps that will help you get home safely.

Communicate with the airline

What happens to you following a flight cancellation or delay will depend on the airline you are flying with and what the circumstance is.

Various airline regulations will offer you something different depending on the extent of your delay. Most will offer meals, snacks and airport transfers for a flight delay. If your flight is cancelled with them, they offer options of rebooking, reimbursing or cancelling it and redeeming it for future travel.

Check your travel insurance

Your specific travel insurance policy might have its own rules in the case of a delay or cancellation. If your flight was cancelled due to COVID-19, then check with your insurance provider about how they may have updated their policies.

But if your flight is cancelled due to weather or a fault of the airline then you will most likely be eligible for insurance after a delay of four hours. This means that you may be able to claim hotel costs or costs to change your route to your destination.

Current flight cancellation policies of major airlines

Airline Cancellation Policy Flexible Booking Policy
Air Canada Within their control:
with less than 12 hours,
Air Canada will offer food, communication and accommodations to
out of town passengers
Outside of their control:
if cancelled with more
than 3 hours, they will
rebook you on the next
available flight
Can make a one-time change without a fee
or cancel your existing booking and rebook later for travel between March 1, 2020 – February 28, 2022
WestJetIf your flight was cancelled
by WestJet due to the
COVID-19 pandemic, they are providing eligible guests refunds back to the original form of payment
Your refund will
be returned as a
credit to access
within 24 months
from the date of issue
Air TransatIf Air Transat cancelled
your flight on or after December 1, 2020,
you may be eligible
for a refund
You can reschedule
your travel at no
charge up to 24 hours before departure
You can cancel and receive future travel credit
Porter AirlinesWithin their control:
If your flight is cancelled
or delayed with Porter,
the airline will keep you informed and rebook
you at no additional cost
Outside of your control: you can also claim a refund
Voluntary changes
are dependent on
your fare.
Read more here.

Porter Airlines has currently suspended all their flights but they will be resuming operations on February 11, 2021.

a woman walking through an airport
Flight Cancellations and Refunds

What if my airline goes under?

If you’re in this situation, we understand it must feel defeating. If your airline goes under, your best bet is to buy a new flexible flight for yourself, then circle back to your method of payment and channel of booking to try to get a refund. Double check the airline’s website as they will most likely reveal their provisions for airline passengers abroad who booked a ticket. When WOW Air ceased operations on March 28, 2019, Icelandair stepped in and offered discounted rates for those impacted by this disruption.

How travellers can get a flight refund with the airline direct:

If an airline goes under or bankrupt, it is highly unlikely that you will be reimbursed directly from the airline. You have to address your claims to the bankruptcy trustee of the airline and this could be a lengthy, stressful process. As a result, it is best to look at your other options for reimbursement.

On your credit card: In Canada, refunds depend on the card issuer’s policy. Call your credit card company and ask if a chargeback (a reversal of payment due to the failed delivery of services or goods) is possible due to the circumstances. If you made the reservation recently and challenge the charge, you may be likely to get a refund.

On your debit card: Debit cards offer less protection than credit cards do, but some debit card companies may refund your money through a chargeback. This is not guaranteed but it is worth calling your card issuer to confirm.

If you booked via PayPal: If you booked your ticket through PayPal, you may be eligible for a refund in the case of a cancelled flight. PayPal offers a buyer protection scheme which endeavours to refund your money in the event that the service or item is not provided. PayPal will then attempt to claim it back from the other party. Lodge a claim through your PayPal dashboard within 180 days to get your money back.

How to claim through travel insurance

Check with your travel insurance company as each one is different. The refund claims will differ based on the coverage you purchased, and there may be exclusions for bankruptcy. Most policies do have a section for cancelled or delayed flights, especially if it is the fault of the airline. Get in touch with them, explain your specific situation, and advocate for yourself as best you can.

How to claim a refund if you booked through:

A third party travel website: If you booked with a website like Skyscanner, it is always best to have travel insurance for unforeseen circumstances such as a cancelled flight. Third-party websites are not directly responsible or liable for any of the prices displayed or bookings you make through the platform.

In the event that you encounter any problem with your booking via Skyscanner, you can find more details and contact information at our help page.

Vacation package or travel agent: If you booked with a travel agent, you’ll have access to a useful point of reference and they can advise you on new flights or refund claims. If you booked through a Tour Agency then most companies will be responsible for providing you with coverage in the unfortunate event of an airline going under. But in some cases, if the airline that they booked you through goes bankrupt, your travel agent may not have much control.

Know your rights and stay informed of flight cancellations

Arm yourself with knowledge of your travel insurance policy and airline policy so that you know your rights in the case of an unpredictable flight cancellation or delay. Keep up-to-date travel alerts and advisories so that you are educated even before you go to the airport. Remember that a delay or cancellation can change depending on where you are departing from and your intended destination.

When something like a flight cancellation or delay occurs, it can be really frustrating. Being prepared and informed can save you from the headache of unexpected travel hiccups. Our advice for you is to stay in-the-know with your chosen airline, so you can have the smoothest travel experiences possible for your future flights!

Where can I travel right now?

If you’re making plans to get back out there, our interactive global map will keep you updated on which countries are open to travellers. You can find the latest travel restrictions and border openings, updated daily for your convenience.

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