Law360 (April 24, 2020, 7:02 PM EDT) -- A Florida man has filed a proposed class action against Air Canada in Florida federal court, claiming the airline breached its ticket contract by not refunding the ticket purchase price for flights canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Orlando resident Thomas Levu alleged in his complaint Thursday that the airline, which he says has canceled more than 25% of its flights, is attempting to force customers to accept a credit for use on a future flight in contravention of its own contractual obligations as well as guidelines the U.S. Department of Transportation issued in response to the current public health crisis.
"Given such outright cancellations in the midst of a global pandemic, customers, including Mr. Levu, are clearly entitled to a return of their money for which they are receiving nothing in return, which is precisely what Air Canada promised to do in the event it cancelled scheduled flights," the suit says.
Levu is seeking to lead a class including anyone who purchased tickets for a flight on Air Canada or its affiliated lines for flights scheduled from March 1 through the date of class certification, whose flight was canceled and who was not provided a refund, a description he says covers at least tens of thousands of individuals who can be identified through the airline's records.
The suit asks the court to award compensatory damages or order specific performance of the refund provisions in the ticket contract, and also seeks awards of prejudgment and post-judgment interest and attorney fees and costs.
Levu said he purchased a ticket in late January from Air Canada to travel on May 14 from Orlando to Toronto and then from Toronto to Tokyo. On March 27, he received an email from the airline informing him that the Orlando to Toronto flight had been rescheduled to depart on May 15, and then on April 6, he received another email saying the flight had been canceled.
Instead of refunding him for the canceled flight, which Levu says is promised in the company's ticket contract language, Air Canada told him that he could only use the funds to book a different Air Canada flight within the next two years.
"Notwithstanding that plaintiff could not take the flight he booked and for which he fully paid, and notwithstanding that defendant cannot offer comparable accommodations on another flight, plaintiff was not given a refund, but was only offered a credit for use on a different flight," the complaint says.
Levu pointed to the procedure for "Involuntary Refunds" in Air Canada's terms and conditions, which he says are defined as refunds provided "due to reasons within Air Canada's control or required for safety purposes" where "the passenger experiences a delay of three hours or more, a denial of boarding or cancellation, and refuses alternate travel arrangement."
"In such circumstances, Air Canada promises that it 'will refund the unused portion of the ticket,'" Levu says.
He also cited an "Enforcement Notice Regarding Refunds by Carriers Given the Unprecedented Impact of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency on Air Travel" in which the U.S. DOT said: "Although the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, the airlines' obligation to refund passengers for cancelled or significantly delayed flights remains unchanged."
The notice also said that the department would continue to view any airline policy that denies refunds for cancelations by the carrier "to be a violation of the carriers' obligation that could subject the carrier to an enforcement action."
Levu's counsel and Air Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
Levu is represented by Jacob L. Phillips and Edmund A. Normand of Normand PLLC.
Counsel information for Air Canada was not immediately available.
The case is Levu v. Air Canada Inc., case number 6:20-cv-703, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
--Editing by Jack Karp.
For a reprint of this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.