Are you stuck abroad? What you need to know about returning to Canada
After the federal government told Canadians abroad on Friday to return home to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, dozens of travelers contacted CBC News, seeking answers.
Government and airline policies change rapidly, which is why CBC News has compiled the most recent information to help you get home or solve your vacation plans during these difficult times.
What is the government’s latest position?
Some travelers told CBC News they feared the border would be closed upon their return to Canada. While the government has closed the border to most foreigners, Canadian citizens, permanent residents and Americans can still enter.
However, the number of international flights to Canada is decreasing.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that starting Wednesday, international flights will only be allowed to land at major airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
Meanwhile, airlines are already reduce thefts.
However, the federal government has said stranded travelers shouldn’t worry as they offer emergency loans up to $ 5,000 to help Canadians find their way home.
“Our government will establish a support program for Canadians who need to fly,” Trudeau said.
But if you do get sick with the coronavirus abroad, don’t expect to be home anytime soon. The Prime Minister said anyone showing symptoms would not be allowed to board a flight to Canada, but could get financial assistance.
To keep abreast of the situation, Canadians abroad are encouraged to register with the free government information service for international travelers. They can also contact Global Affairs Canada for emergency aid.
What if I can’t reach my airline?
While the government’s request to return home is clear, what is less clear to travelers is how to proceed. This is because airlines and travel agencies have been inundated with calls from customers so many people cannot reach them by phone.
For travelers who have internet access, many airlines, including Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat waive change fees and have systems in place that allow overseas passengers to change their booking online.
Sunwing told CBC News that she “works around the clock” to transport passengers home on dedicated flights.
Most travelers who have booked through a travel agency will need to contact their agency directly to make a new reservation. Some online booking agencies, including Expedia, have also set up systems allowing passengers to book online.
@AirCanada I understand everyone is busy, but I couldn’t reach anyone by phone. I’m stuck in France and trying to get home to Canada while I can still it means changing my current flight home. Please help!
For people who need to call their airline or travel agent before changing reservations and are unsuccessful, travel agency spokesperson Allison Wallace suggests they go ahead and book an outbound flight. simple. While there are no guarantees, she said the airlines would likely forgive the cost of your original return ticket during these difficult times.
“I would say the airlines and the suppliers are going to be extremely forgiving, understand the situation and do whatever they can,” said Wallace, a spokesperson for Flight Center.
She said travelers who choose this option should keep all of their receipts and write down any steps they have taken to reach their airline, in order to present their case at a later date.
What about future flights?
Ottawa is also warning Canadians at home not to travel internationally. But many people who leave within a few days also find it difficult to contact their airline.
Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing allow travelers to make flight changes online, with the change fee waived for travel through April 30.
Sunwing passengers should note that the airline suspended all southbound flights between March 17 and April 9. Customers whose flights have been canceled will receive a full refund.
Wallace encourages travelers who need to cancel future trips to wait 72 hours before their departure to call their airline, to avoid blocking phone lines.
“I suspect that everyone will be taken care of when this is all over,” she said.
Why is my modified flight so expensive?
Some travelers who contacted CBC News complained that when they changed their flight booking – even if their change fees were waived – they had to pay a much higher price for a new plane ticket.
WestJet said it is currently lowering ticket prices on inbound international flights.
Air Transat said its pricing structure has not changed and its fares are generally cheaper than those of other airlines.
Sunwing said its passengers currently overseas will be repatriated by air at no additional cost.
Air Canada did not respond to a request for comment.
The government has told Canadians abroad to come back as soon as possible. Why are you inflating the prices of flights home? You should prioritize health and safety, not making it unaffordable. @WestJet @AirCanada @airtransat @ BritishAirwaysT @JustinTrudeau @ TravelGoC @GOVUK
Many companies are mobilizing to support their customers in these unprecedented times. Others have gouged @AirCanada Trying to bring a CDN student back from Austria after quarantine on March 22 – thefts now $ 5,000. 3 days to try to get #aircanada or #airplane assistance by phone or online.
Wallace said passengers with non-refundable tickets are fortunate enough to get even a waiver of change fees, as airlines are not required to compensate passengers for a disruption beyond their control – like the coronavirus.
“It’s not something the airline is to blame. It’s what they call an act of God.”
Wallace said airlines were also feeling the financial squeeze as the coronavirus weighs on their profits. “The travel industry is getting hammered right now and it will be devastating.”
What about my future projects?
For anyone planning to travel beyond April, Wallace suggests staying seated. This is because airlines generally don’t offer any compensation for flights beyond April at this time.
However, if the coronavirus pandemic worsens, airlines can extend their change fee waivers or start canceling flights, meaning passengers will get a full refund.
“It’s constantly changing,” Wallace said.