CALGARY -- Consumers steamed about plans being changed by the COVID-19 pandemic have taken out their frustrations on the three industries most impacted by the disruption, the Better Business Bureau says.

Travel agencies, airlines and companies offering vacation rentals were hit the hardest by complaints from Canadians during the period between March and May 2020, the agency says.

In that time, the BBB says it received more than 53,000 complaints and reviews, an increase of approximately 280 per cent.

In the Calgary and southern Alberta area, Air Canada received the most complaints about its services, followed by WestJet and Swoop.

The majority of those coronavirus-related complaints (63 per cent) were about cancellations, especially those connected with travel, events, fitness centres and classes.

Online retailers were also the target of concerns, the BBB says, as that industry had more than 1,600 complaints filed against it. Those mainly consisted of slow or no delivery, alleged price gouging, incorrect delivery or faulty or inferior products.

The BBB says the massive quantity of complaints against companies working the travel and tourism industry shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

"They are all directly related to one another, and were significantly impacted by closed borders, and government and health regulations," said Shawna-Kay Thomas, spokesperson for the BBB serving southern Alberta and east Kootenay in a release. "There are some bright spots and potential opportunities for trustworthy businesses. A new customer is emerging – one who is more aware and intentional about how they spend their money and who gets their business."

Of course, there is always helpful advice to guide consumers, especially when various parts of the country are starting to relaunch their economies.

The BBB says if you're looking to make travel plans, you should heed this advice:

  • Check all the health regulations of any place you are planning to visit – some countries still require visitors to quarantine for 14 days
  • Examine cancellation policies carefully before making any plans – it's always important to know what these are so you aren't stuck without a way to get your money back if the trip is cancelled
  • Buy travel insurance, but pay attention to the small print – not all policies have the same coverage and, with the rapidly changing circumstances of COVID-19, you may not be covered in every circumstance
  • Go to a travel agent – if you're unsure about how to make all the bookings yourself, find a reputable agent to help you navigate your planning process
  • Keep a close eye on any changes that could occur in the place where you're going – countries are slowly reopening, but be sure you know what is open and closed before you depart
  • Watch out for bargain tickets – low priced travel deals are aplenty as countries try to draw the attention of prospective travellers. Make sure you know that while you can save money, a last-minute cancellation may cost you much more
  • Be on alert for scams – scammers always take advantage of crisis situations, such as COVID-19, to try and trick people into handing over their money