EDMONTON -- The cancellation of countless flights and travel plans has been yet another side effect of COVID-19.

To contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the federal government closed its borders, asked Canadians to cancel non-essential travel and imposed a mandatory two-week self-isolation for those returning from abroad.

These aggressive measures have forced many Canadians to change their travel plans, so how are airlines dealing with cancellations during the pandemic?

Air Canada, WestJet and Edmonton-based Flair Airlines are offering flight credits with no cancellation fees.

Air Canada's credit will last about a year, WestJet will let you keep your credit for two years for flights until the end of April and Flair Airlines is also offering credit for flights until the end of next month.

"Passengers will receive a full voucher for the full amount," said Flair Airlines Marketing Manager Stefanie Stergiotis. "It's nice to be able to help someone and that's why we're doing this."

Low-cost carrier Swoop is offering credits for international flights, but not for flights within the country.

Chris Despot and his two sons were excited for their trip to Toronto in May to watch the Blue Jays, but they have decided to prioritize their health.

"We've been told by the prime minister…Jason Kenney, our premier, 'stay at home, don't travel,'" Despot told CTV News Edmonton. "I don't want to travel if I don't have to.

"Swoop is saying, 'Well sorry, you're either on your flight or you lose your money."


As the major airlines offer flight credits and the ability to rebook flights, many Canadians are asking them to go one step further: give customers their money back.

Advocacy group Air Passenger Rights launched a petition asking for full refunds. The group argues that according to the Federal Transport Act, Canadians are entitled to receive refunds for many cancelled international flights.

"The airlines, right now, are committing large-scale fraud," said Gabor Lukacs with Air Passenger Rights.

As for domestic flights, Lukacs says, "If the passenger chooses to cancel for health reasons, then a credit is the bare minimum they should be receiving."

Despot and his sons still want to go to Toronto, when it's safe to do so, and he hopes he doesn't have to pay twice.

"Swoop needs to help out with that and currently they're not."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Bill Fortier