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Ontario woman demanding refund after Swoop changes departure city of flight – CBC.ca

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If it’s at a different time, on a different day and leaving from a different city, is it still the same flight you paid for?

Jackie Lauzon is fighting to get her money back after Swoop, the ultra-low cost airline owned by WestJet, modified her flights to leave from Hamilton instead of London, two days early. 

The LaSalle, Ont. woman purchased four sets of tickets – for her and her husband as well as for another couple – during a seat sale back in January. The couples were supposed to fly from London to Halifax on June 9 and return on June 12.

She found out this past week that the departing flight was rescheduled to June 7, and they’d be flying in and out of Hamilton instead. 

“This isn’t even the same flight we agreed upon, when we originally purchased it,” Lauzon told Chris dela Torre, the host of CBC London’s Afternoon Drive. “I thought it would be pretty cut and dry to get our money back, but I’ve found out that’s not the case.”

A woman in LaSalle found out her upcoming Swoop flight from London to Halifax had changed. Not just the time — but also the date and departure city. We heard Jackie Lauzon’s story, and then talked to Gabor Lukacs, founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights Canada. 12:45

Jackie Lauzon spent 2.5 hours on hold to reach a customer service representative, and also exchanged messages with the airline over Facebook. (Submitted by Jackie Lauzon)

Lauzon said the email from the airline was vague about a refund for the $550 she spent on the flights, and she’s since been given the option to change them and be on the hook for the price difference or take a 24 month credit.

“I spent 2.5 hours on hold in order to speak with someone direct,” she explained. “[The customer service representative] says at this time Swoop does not have a policy in place to issue refunds as a result of COVID-19, and she says ‘well you can check back in the future and that may be an option.'”

The fact that it “may” be an option, makes Lauzon nervous.

“If they go out of business, what happens? We’re out of our money.”

Swoop responded to CBC’s request for comment with a statement about running on a reduced domestic network.

“As a result of COVID-19, Swoop will adjust its domestic and international flying schedule for May and June,” the airline said. “All travellers impacted by these network updates are being notified by email with options on how to make changes to their flights or cancel an existing reservation.

Don’t accept this as the new norm, says advocate

Gabor Lukacs, founder of Air Passenger Rights Canada, said Swoop should provide a refund.

“There’s nothing in Swoop’s contract that would allow Swoop to unilaterally change the destination or origin, that’s completely absurd that they are trying to convince the public that that’s the new norm,” he explained.

Airline passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs in based in Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)

“If they can no longer provide a flight from London, we may be sympathetic to that possibly, but they have to provide a refund. Why? Because they’re not delivering the service that contract is for.”

If an airline refuses to provide a refund, Lukacs urged customers to ask their credit card company for a chargeback. He also encouraged people to research what they’re entitled to before making the call.

“VISA and Mastercard have put [out] some very balanced guidelines on ensuring the passengers are able to exercise their rights to a chargeback,” he said.

“In some cases the frontline agents for those credit card companies are not aware of how this is supposed to work but … when you speak to the manager and say here’s the document from MasterCard International, here’s the document from VISA International, they tend to process the chargeback.”

Lauzon has since contacted her credit card company, American Express. She found out that she would have to wait until Swoop’s 24 month credit had expired to file a claim, and that she’d only get a refund for three of the four sets of tickets. Lauzon said she and her husband are covered as cardholders, but only one “companion” can be reimbursed per claim. 

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Egypt upholds death sentence for 12 senior Muslim Brotherhood figures

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Egypt’s highest civilian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 senior Muslim Brotherhood figures over a 2013 sit-in which ended with security forces killing hundreds of protesters, judicial sources said.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, means the 12 men could face execution pending approval by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. They include Abdul Rahman Al-Bar, commonly described as the group’s mufti or top religious scholar, Mohamed El-Beltagi, a former member of parliament, and Osama Yassin, a former minister.

Many Muslim Brotherhood figures have been sentenced to death in other cases related to the unrest that followed the military’s ousting of Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi in 2013, but the Court of Cassation ordered retrials.

Rights groups have documented a sharp rise in the number of executions in Egypt, with at least 51 carried out so far this year according to Amnesty International.

“Instead of continuing to escalate their use of the death penalty by upholding death sentences following convictions in grossly unfair mass trials Egyptian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Monday’s ruling relates to a mass trial of hundreds of suspects accused of murder and incitement of violence during pro-Brotherhood protests at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo in the weeks after Mursi’s overthrow.

In September 2018, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced 75 people to death and issued varying jail terms for more than 600 others. Many defendants were tried in absentia.

Forty-four of those sentenced to death appealed to the Court of Cassation. Thirty-one had their sentences changed to life in prison, while death sentences were upheld for 12 others.

A final defendant, the senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian, died in prison in Cairo in August 2020. Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, died in prison in 2019.

The court also upheld jail terms for many other defendants including a life sentence for Mohamed Badie, leader of the outlawed Brotherhood, and a 10-year jail term for Mursi’s son Osama, the judicial sources said.

 

(Reporting by Haitham Ahmed; writing by Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean and Grant McCool)

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Trudeau says he discussed border with Biden, but no deal

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden about how to lift pandemic-related border restrictions between the two countries but made clear no breakthrough has been achieved.

U.S. and Canadian business leaders have voiced increasing concern about the ban on non-essential travel in light of COVID-19 that was first imposed in March 2020 and renewed on a monthly basis since then. The border measures do not affect trade flows.

The border restrictions have choked off tourism between the two countries. Canadian businesses, especially airlines and those that depend on tourism, have been lobbying the Liberal government to relax the restrictions.

Canada last week took a cautious first step, saying it was prepared to relax quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated citizens returning home starting in early July.

Trudeau, speaking after a Group of Seven summit in Britain, said he had talked to Biden “about coordinating measures at our borders as both our countries move ahead with mass vaccination.” Canada is resisting calls for the border measures to be relaxed, citing the need for more people to be vaccinated.

The United States is ahead of Canada in terms of vaccination totals.

“We will continue to work closely together on moving forward in the right way but each of us always will put at the forefront the interests and the safety of our own citizens,” Trudeau told a televised news conference when asked the Biden conversation.

“Many countries, like Canada, continue to say that now is not the time to travel,” Trudeau added, though he said it is important to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Man with 39 wive dies in India

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A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in north east India, the chief minister of his home state said.

Ziona Chana, the head of a local Christian sect that allows polygamy, died on Sunday, Zoramthanga, the chief minister of Mizoram and who goes by one name, said in a tweet.

With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Ziona has 33.

Winston Blackmore, the head of a polygamous Mormon sect in Canada, has around 150 children from 27 wives – 178 people in total.

Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-story pink structure with around 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.

The sect, named “Chana”, was founded by Ziona’s father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families. Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year.

They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.

Despite his family’s huge size, Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.

“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.

“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”

 

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Adnan Abidi in New Delhi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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