Last week, the country's two largest airlines stated that they are ending their on-board seat distancing policies starting July 1, raising health concerns amid a pandemic that has devastated the travel industry.
Air Canada had previously blocked the sale of adjacent seats in economy class, and WestJet did the same throughout the entire plane, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Air Canada has more customer complaints about refunds to the U.S. Department of Transportation than any non-U.S. airline. The department says Air Canada received 969 refund complaints out of 7,568 in April, or 13 per cent, outpacing more than 80 carriers in the category.
WestJet customers expressed their frustration on social media earlier this month after WestJet announced its 2020 summer schedule, which includes destinations in the United States.
Earlier this month, WestJet quietly changed its refund policy to allow some customers whose flights were cancelled due to the pandemic to recoup their cash. The move made it the first major Canadian carrier to offer refunds rather than credit to passengers whose trips were called off due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, customers are frustrated that the airline is already offering flights south of the border when it cancelled thousands of tickets and hasn't issued refunds for them.
Now, many travellers are anxious about flying without distancing policies in place. To make matters worse, many airline customers say they aren't comfortable travelling on tickets they recently booked.
On social media, a few people ask why airlines are permitted to ignore physical distancing protocol while other businesses must adhere to them; others simply say they won't travel with airlines that don't have distancing policies in place.
Here are some of the recent complaints and concerns from Canadians regarding the new Air Canada and WestJet policies.
Government of Canada recommends distancing 2 meters apart for protection....Air Canada says sell tickets for the middle seat??!!!....anyone see a problem??? @AirPassRightsCA@MarcGarneau @AirCanada #RefundPassengers— Gina (@Gina79179061) June 29, 2020
Seems like a pattern of trashy companies. Tim Hortons -- spying. Air Canada + WestJet -- no social distancing. Sobeys + Loblaw -- no pay for workers, pay shareholders. Maple Leaf Foods -- lobby for gag law against food safety. Seems companies act badly went gov'ts don't regulate.— 🇨🇦 Antifascist from TO (@AntiFordTO) June 29, 2020
I will be maintaining my physical distancing policies from WestJet and Air Canada. https://t.co/3tS6pwDbWg— 𝙅𝘼𝙈𝙀𝙎 🤨 𝙈𝘾𝙇𝙀𝙊𝘿 (@jamespmcleod) June 26, 2020
Why are Air Canada and WestJet permitted to ignore social distancing when no other companies can?— julia (@gimletgirl10) June 27, 2020
I strongly suggest that @AirCanada and @WestJet not receive any federal bailout money of any kind. To put their passengers and staff at risk this way shows blatant disregard for our safety, @cafreeland. @JustinTrudeau, don't let them get away with this. https://t.co/e8KcXMC9Ql— Furious Feminist to Your Left (@RoarWomenRoar) June 28, 2020
so if air canada and westjet are both dropping the seat distancing policy, how exactly am i supposed to ever visit my family? :(— momma cobbler 🤦🏼♀️ (@skatergurl_4) June 26, 2020
So @WestJet and @AirCanada are ending social distancing rules on flights -the main preventative measure against spreading COVID-19 - and they have the gall to say they care for the health and welfare of their passengers? Way to show you value profits before people.— Oscar Jones (@dogtiredpress) June 26, 2020
A Facebook group called Air Passenger Rights (Canada) has also been created as a way for people to know their rights in relation to airline refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, the Government of Canada states that you should avoid all travel outside of the country until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a global travel advisory, the government notes that, "This advisory overrides other risk levels on this page, with the exception of any risk levels for countries or regions where we advise to avoid all travel."
Find out more information about the United States travel advisory HERE.