About a year after the first cancellations due to Covid-19 kicked off, WestJet has adjusted their refund policy and is now offering refunds to customers whose ticket got cancelled during the pandemic according to a website update of the Canadian carrier.
First (in June of 2020) WestJet has only offered refunds to customers whose ticket originates or ends in the U.K. or U.S. due to local legislation that mandates airlines to refund when their flights are cancelled by the airline.
Airlines in Canada have for the longest time refused to reimburse customers who had their flights cancelled as the Canadian government wouldn’t force them to do so but foreign authorities weren’t so easy to sway.
On numerous occasions regulators such as the E.U Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation have reminded airlines that they have to refund passengers their money in cash if flights were cancelled.
In Canada so far the government and the Canadian Transportation Agency have been completely useless when it comes to protection consumer rights, instead they were more worried that airlines don’t succumb to the inevitable cash crunch by allowing them to issue vouchers instead of giving people their money back.
This conversation between the government, the public and the airlines has become increasingly contentious in recent months as there was talk about Canadian airlines needing a government bailout. Sentiment has grown to the point that both politicians and members of the public have stated that airlines shouldn’t receive a single dollar until they started to refund customers in case and move away from their voucher policy.
Westjet has now updated their website with a new refund policy as follows:
WestJet has started to provide refunds to the original form of payment for guests with flights that were cancelled by WestJet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are contacting eligible guests with the option to request a refund to original form of payment, instead of the Travel Bank credit they received when their flight was cancelled by WestJet. We are processing these requests by flight date, prioritizing flights cancelled in March and then forward.
Given the volume of cancellations during this time, we are not providing refunds through the call centre. Please wait to be contacted as we work through requests as quickly as possible.
To submit a request for refund for a flight cancelled by WestJet before November 14, please complete this form.
For flights cancelled by WestJet after November 14, visit Manage Trips to cancel your reservation and confirm if you are eligible for a refund to original form of payment.
Guests who are eligible for a refund to original form of payment, due to a WestJet Vacation cancelled by WestJet, will be contacted.
We’ve started to proactively reach out to guests with Vacations cancelled by WestJet starting with departure dates in March through to April 24 and will be working forward. Please wait to be contacted as we work through requests as quickly as possible.
Booked through a third-party?
If you booked through a Travel Agent (online or directly), third-party like Expedia or Airmiles, Corporate Travel arranger, or another airline, please contact them directly.
It’s clear that this only accounts for flights cancelled by the airline, not flights cancelled voluntary by the passenger because they couldn’t or didn’t want to go on their trip.
Low cost carrier SWOOP has has this policy in place since late 2020:
An Update on Refunds
On October 21, the WestJet Group, including Swoop, announced it will begin providing refunds related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Travellers with eligible itineraries will be proactively contacted by Swoop, beginning November 2, 2020. We appreciate your patience as we work through the administrative backlog. For more information, please visit https://www.flyswoop.com/refunds.
No such notice can be seen on Air Canada’s website as the largest Canadian airline continues to hold thousands of dollars of Canadian families hostage, just giving them a voucher nobody can use at this point.
This withholding of customers funds is truly criminal but of course without any consequences to fear these companies see it as easy money, in the very least as a free loan.
In the long term it might come back to haunt them though, after all many customers who got burned by the airline won’t book with them again. Those who are (according to this article) affected by the policy change should contact their travel agent or WestJet directly and demand a cash refund.