Consumer advocacy groups and tens of thousands of Canadians are calling on the federal government to force airlines to offer passengers the option of a refund for flights they can’t take amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Many passengers so far are only being offered time-limited credit or vouchers for cancelled trips and tickets they can’t use, as Canada’s airlines bleed money due to a sharp decline in travel because of the spread of COVID-19 globally over the past months.

8:49Coronavirus: The future of travel

Coronavirus: The future of travel

But organizations that advocate for consumer rights claim that’s not enough, arguing passengers are entitled to a full refund by law, and are turning up the heat on Ottawa to use its power to force airlines’ hands and help struggling passengers.

“These people are really very angry,” said Gábor Lukács, a well-known passenger rights advocate and founder of Air Passenger Rights Canada.

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“This is a form of theft, and we have to call this by its name,” he claimed.