From upgrades to resort credits: Big incentives to lure travellers back post-pandemic
VANCOUVER -- The COVID-19 pandemic has grounded planes, docked cruise ships, and put the travel industry on hold for months. Restarting the industry is going to be a bumpy ride – but it could work in consumers' favour.
Allison Wallace, a spokesperson for Flight Centre, says the company is already starting to see a surge in interest, mostly for travel next year. And providers are cutting prices and changing existing policies so consumers feel comfortable booking now.
"They're providing a lot more flexibility - everything from smaller deposits than would normally be required for a cruise or a tour (to) being able to do a final payment a lot closer to the date of departure," she says. "Probably the biggest one is making sure there are no change or cancellation fees if you were to book now and then change your mind, or if dates get changed."
And Wallace says she's expecting even more incentives to come.
"We should see better pricing, and if not better, definitely more value. That could be room upgrades, it could be resort credits, it could be onboard credits for cruises ships. Travel providers and the travel industry - we want to get people travelling again when they're comfortable," she says.
"To all the people who are asking should I book now or should I wait – it's definitely worth looking and considering booking now because there are some incentives we've never seen before. It's worth doing the research, it's worth figuring out what your options are, and then make the best decision for you."
Wallace adds travellers will be looking to use the airline vouchers they've been issued over the last couple of months.
But many Canadians are still angry that the airlines won't give refunds for flights that have been cancelled because of the pandemic. More than 16,000 people have now signed a petition launched this week asking the government "to require airlines and other carriers under federal jurisdiction to allow customers whose trips have been cancelled due to the current pandemic to obtain a refund."
Air Canada alone has kept more than $2.6 billion in un-refunded flights.
"The airlines are breaking the law," says Gabor Lukacs, a passenger rights advocate. "It's a no brainer - the fundamental right of passengers to a refund if a flight is cancelled for whatever reason, outside of the airline's control, has been recognized for more than 16 years."
At a daily press briefing on Thursday in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he's aware of the issue, but didn't make any promises to those who want their money back.
"We recognize how impacted air travel and airlines are by this COVID-19 pandemic," he said. "We also recognize that many Canadians are out of pocket for tickets that they are obviously not going to be using."
Trudeau said he's looking at examples of what other countries have done, but with the Canadian airline industry in flux, their input is crucial.
"We're looking to make sure that Canadians are supported financially through this time, but that also we're going to come back with airlines that function here in Canada for the long term. Getting that balance right will be delicate, but it is something that we're working on," he said.