"All of us are totally running out of cash"

airline passengers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is examining the issue of airlines offering travel vouchers rather than refunds to passengers who have had their flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau says the government needs to have ``some very careful discussions with airlines'' as well as Canadians to maintain a balance where travellers are ``treated fairly'' and the industry stays intact.

None of Canada's major airlines are offering to return cash to passengers for the hundreds of thousands of flight cancellations since mid-March, opting instead to dole out 24-month vouchers that have left many customers frustrated over a service they paid for but have not received.

A trio of petitions that tout more than 74,000 signatures call for full refunds before any financial aid is handed out to airlines.

Advocates say that Canadians who have lost their jobs or closed their businesses need the money ``desperately,'' along with senior citizens and people with health problems _ all of whom may never have an opportunity to redeem the two-year vouchers.

Canada is an outlier among western countries on this issue, as the European Union and the United States require airlines to offer refunds.

Alexandre de Jeniac, the  Director General of the International Air Transport Association says they simply can't offer refunds, because they are out of money.

"All of us are running totally out of cash. It's a liquidity crisis," say de Juniac. "We ask for passenger help. I tell you, I'm on my knees asking for passenger help."

Last week, Trudeau announced federal financing will be available to the country's largest employers, including several big airlines, to help weather the COVID-19 economic crisis, with loans starting at $60 million for companies that make at least $300 million in annual revenues.

(with files from Dave Bradley)