According to the CBC, the COVID pandemic has created a backlog of claims a year old for the Quebec travel compensation fund.
“They cannot tell us when or how things are going to be paid back,” said one Quebecer to the CBC. “We have no news. Absolutely no news.”
Quebec’s compensation fund, in contrast to TICO in Ontario, is funded by travellers and not travel agencies.
Managed by Quebec’s Office of Consumer Protection, the Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agents, or FICAV, can reimburse travellers in certain circumstances such as hotels and airlines filing for bankruptcy or a storm cancelling a flight or cruise.
FICAV was extremely well funded when the pandemic hit, having reached $140 million.
Flight cancellations last year triggered more than 35,000 claims to the FICAV, totalling more than $100 million dollars.
However, according to FICAV regulations, no more than 60 per cent of the fund can be allocated to a single event.
Federal financial aid now having been provided to both Air Canada and Transat, customers have until the end of August to submit refund requests directly with those airlines. Ottawa is still negotiating with Sunwing and WestJet airlines for separate aid packages, but Moscou Coté, president of the Quebec association of travel agents, anticipates those deals could be worked out in the next few weeks.
“Whatever is left is about $50 million dollars, so there should be sufficient funds to ensure the proper functioning of the fund,” said Coté.
Élisabeth Gosselin, a spokesperson for the province’s justice minister, said the hope is that federal financial assistance will be offered to the entire travel and tourism industry — not just airline carriers but travel agents as well.
“We want the best possible compensation for Quebecers,” said Gosselin in an email to CBC. “If the FICAV dealt with the requests at this stage, consumers could only be partially reimbursed.”