Friday,  June 2, 2023  3:43 am

Refunds vs. vouchers: Court authorizes class action against Sunwing

Refunds vs. vouchers: Court authorizes class action against Sunwing

Judge Bernard Tremblay of the Superior Court of Quebec has authorized a class action to proceed against Sunwing and Sunwing Vacations. 

The story was first reported by The Canadian Press in Quebec. 

The action is authorized on behalf of those who have a cancelled plane ticket or Sunwing package due to the pandemic and have not been reimbursed, or who have been reimbursed in whole or in part by a third with a certain delay.

Initially, the plaintiffs, Alain Lachaine and Grégory Bonnier, wanted their class action to target not only Sunwing, but also other carriers and tour operators: Air Canada, Air Canada Vacations, Air Transat, Transat Tours, WestJet and WestJet Vacations. 

Justice Tremblay, however, excluded these companies from the authorized class action. 

READ MORE: Sunwing secures $375M to protect jobs thanks to LEEFF loan

He cited, on the one hand, that WestJet and WestJet Vacations voluntarily instituted a reimbursement program in October 2020. 

Air Canada, ACV, Air Transat and Transat Tours have also announced that they will reimburse their customers, after entering into agreements with the Government of Canada. 

The (different) case of Sunwing

For its part, Sunwing has also entered into an agreement with the Government of Canada. 

Last February, the company obtained a loan under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), giving it access to cash of $375 million.

However, unlike Air Canada and Transat, the federal support for Sunwing did not include support to help them provide reimbursements to travellers. The funds, at the time, was framed around protecting jobs. 

As part of the agreement, Sunwing said it would keep an account with money received from customers for travel that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining it until Ottawa's "broader discussions with the airline industry conclude and a policy is established for the treatment of these prepaid amounts." 

LEEFF loans provide bridge financing to Canada's largest employers whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through private market financing. 

It is intended to provide large employers with access to credit to preserve jobs and continue operations during this challenging period.

"Our conversations with the government are ongoing, and we look forward to continuing discussions on the issue of refunds for customers with non-refundable bookings who have received future travel credit in the context of the pandemic," said Lyne Chayer, CEO of Sunwing Quebec at the end of April.

A long process

Judge Bernard Tremblay's decision to authorize a class action against Sunwing and Sunwing Vacations is a new step in a long process that began over a year ago. After hearing the parties, the court could just as easily decide in favour of the customers as in Sunwing's favour.

The plaintiffs in this case, Alain Lachaine and Grégory Bonnier, are represented by the firms of Perrier Avocats and Donati Maisonneuve.

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