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Appeal court judge clears path for hearing on flight credit for passengers

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Appeal court judge clears path for hearing on flight credit for passengers

OTTAWA — A Federal Court of Appeal judge has dismissed an attempt by Canada’s transportation regulator to prevent a hearing on its stance on flight credit for travellers.

Air Passenger Rights, an advocacy group, asked the appeal court in April to order the removal of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s statement on vouchers from its website, which was posted following mass flight cancellations by airlines.

The statement said the agency believes that vouchers or travel credit valid for two years are generally appropriate for airlines to give customers — as opposed to refunds — for flights cancelled by carriers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its application, Air Passenger Rights also asked the court to prohibit members of the regulator from dealing with passenger complaints about refunds, arguing that a reasonable apprehension of bias exists based on the agency’s statements.

Justice Wyman Webb said in a ruling Friday that the advocacy group “should not be deprived of its argument… related to the reasonable apprehension of bias” and dismissed the regulator’s request to toss the case.

Consumer advocates and passengers have argued that agency precedent and contract law grant customers the right to reimbursement for hundreds of thousands of flights that were paid for but never took off.

“We are very pleased with the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision confirming that the issue of reasonable apprehension of bias of members of the Canadian Transportation Agency merits a full hearing,” said Air Passenger Rights founder Gabor Lukacs.

“Those members who were involved in the creation, approval, or endorsement of the Statement on Vouchers should not be permitted to adjudicate passenger complaints relating to refunds, because they may not be impartial.”

The transportation agency clarified in late April that its online statement was “not a binding decision” and that reimbursements depend in part on the contract between airline and passenger.

Air Passenger Rights has also asked for that statement to be taken down.

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