Travellers' rights

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It’s every travellers’ worst nightmare—the cancelled trip. After months of preparation and anticipation, thousands of dollars booking flights, hotels, and sightseeing expeditions, it all disappears in an instant.

Unfortunately, that worst nightmare has become an everyday reality for many Atlantic Canadians due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Honeymoons, weddings, family vacations, and even a simple weekend road trip have all been cancelled or put on indefinite hold. Travellers everywhere are dealing with an unexpected and uncomfortable question: What can I do when my trip gets cancelled? What are my rights, and is that even the right term?

For those who booked travel and purchased travel insurance before the COVID-19 pandemic really hit Canada near the middle of March, many companies have offered credits or deferrals. But in uncertain economic times, and with the future of international travel still undecided, having that extra cash back in hand can be more valuable than the promise of a future vacation. Unfortunately, getting that refund is not an easy task.

Take airlines, for example. Canadian airlines have been inundated with calls to refund customers whose trips were cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Petitions have attracted tens of thousands of signatures but so far, most travellers have had to settle for travel credits rather than refunds. But success in getting a refund still largely depends on your unique circumstances.

For those who booked vacation rentals or stays a little closer to home, you might be more successful. While presently many places are beginning to re-open in time for summer, if you have an upcoming reservation within your own province—or even Atlantic Canada—the best thing to do contact them and see what their cancellation or re-booking policies may be.

Travel is expensive and for many of us it’s a luxury. That’s why the current situation is so frustrating. A cancelled or delayed trip isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a dream deferred. And it’s not just those Atlantic Canadians who lost the chance to fly to sunnier shores this winter. Local travel within Atlantic Canada is a huge draw. After all, people come from all over the world to see what we have in our own backyard.

While it might be frustrating, there’s no need to give up entirely. Call your travel agent, insurance company, hotel, or in some cases, your credit card provider. Settle in for what may be a long wait on hold. Understand your situation and what you’re entitled to—in almost all cases, you should expect a travel credit or a refund.

Now is also the time to get a little creative with travel in Atlantic Canada. Each of the four Atlantic provinces have so much to offer, especially once the weather starts to get a little warmer. Take the opportunity to support your local tourism industry this year—you might just be pleasantly surprised by what you find.