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Those who choose to fly internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic should take on the costs of coming into Canada, says an air passenger rights advocate.

“We feel that the travellers should be bearing the expense given the extraordinary situation and that those people choose to travel against government advisory,” said Gabor Lukacs, president of the non-profit Air Passenger Rights.

He noted that exceptions should be made for those who are travelling for truly essential reasons, for example, someone who is receiving medical treatment outside of the country.

Lukacs’ comments came the same day as new restrictions on international travel came into effect in Canada.

Under these new rules, all international flights landing in Canada have to be funnelled to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver.

Over the next few weeks, the federal government is also going to start making international travellers pay to quarantine for up to three days at an approved hotel while they wait for their COVID-19 test results.

Lukacs said he supports the new restrictions, because people should be staying home as much as possible. He noted if someone chooses non-essential travel, they should have to bear all the costs.

“They should be paying for the cost that they cause to the system, to the taxpayers by the choice of travel,” he said.

CANCELLED FLIGHTS

Lukacs said another issue passengers are facing during the pandemic is not getting refunds for cancelled flights.

“The airline still has to refund that to the passenger,” he said.

He said this money belongs to the passengers.

“With respect to refunds, the fundamental rights of passengers has been and remains under the law that if the airline cancels your flight you are entitled, as a matter of law, to a full refund in the original form of payment,” Lukacs said.

Lukacs also said people should be aware of airlines participating in bait and switch conduct, which he described as offering flights, cancelling them and keeping the money.

“For example, in between July and September 2020, data suggests about 80 per cent of flights that were scheduled were cancelled by the airlines,” he said.

- With files from CTV’s Michael Hutchinson and Mark Villani.