After WestJet cancelled several flights in July and told passengers that they were not entitled to refunds, it once again provoked customer anger.

“This is unacceptable,” Shanie Couture said.

With the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, this Quebec City woman booked a round-trip flight from Montreal to Edmonton on July 24 for her family of four.

But almost two weeks later, WestJet cancelled the flight and rebooked a new flight for the whole family, which now includes a one-way stopover in Toronto.

Couture only wants a direct flight because she travels with two young children and must drive more than 260 kilometers from Quebec City to reach Montreal Airport.

“This is the first time for my one-year-old kid to fly. I want to make it easier for them by flying only once,” Couture said. “So I don’t plan to drive that far and have two flights to deal with.”

When she called WestJet and asked for a refund of the $1,768 she had spent on the ticket, Couture said an employee rejected her request and told her that she could only earn points for future flights.

Couture unhappily accepted the credit and spent an additional $2,369 to rebook her family’s preferred flight with another airline.

“I am very disappointed,” she said. “I work in the customer service department. If I can’t do something for the customer, I will give them a refund. I don’t give them store credit. This is not how it works.”

Shanie Couture appeared with her husband Rock Leclerc, five-year-old daughter Katherine, and one-year-old son Nicolas. (Submitted by Shanie Couture)

CBC News interviewed four WestJet customers, each of whom had booked flights to different destinations, all of which departed in July. In each case, WestJet cancelled their direct flights in mid-June and rebooked longer flights for customers, now including stopovers. In both cases, the departure date of the new flight is different.

Every passenger stated that they asked for a refund-but only received a credit line.

Three-quarters of passengers ended up rebooking with another airline, basically paying for their tickets twice.

Dozens of similar customer complaints about WestJet flight changes were posted on social media.

CBC News pointed out in an email inquiry to WestJet that Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) It is recommended that interviewed customers are entitled to a refund.

According to federal regulations, airlines must provide refunds for flights cancelled due to reasons within their control, and if they cannot find alternative flights within 9 hours of the original scheduled departure time, they can rebook passengers with another airline flight.

After receiving several round-trip emails, WestJet responded that it had reviewed the customer’s case and determined that they should be refunded. The airline said it will now provide a refund.

WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said in an email: “We apologize for the inconvenience caused to you and are reviewing our processes to make necessary improvements.”

Ian Jack, a spokesperson for the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), said it should not be difficult for passengers to get the refunds they are entitled to, a non-profit organization that provides services to Canadian travelers.

“You should treat your customers right,” he said. “In this case, until some extra pressure is applied, this obviously won’t happen.”

‘people oriented’

Last year, after the pandemic stopped most air travel, WestJet and several other airlines Facing criticism Refuse to provide refunds for cancelled flights.

But by October 2020, WestJet Changed its attitude and became the first Canadian national airline to announce that it will provide refunds for flights cancelled due to the pandemic.

“We are a people-oriented airline,” said WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims.No statement then.

When WestJet cancelled her July 30 direct flight from Toronto to New York City for herself and her husband, Seema Shirali from Markham, Ontario said that the information she received was not the case.

After WestJet canceled her direct flight from Toronto to New York, Cima Hillary was very upset and only offered credit when she asked for a refund. The alternative offered would add 4.5 hours to her trip. (Submitted by Seema Shirali)

The airline rebooked the couple for a stopover flight in Atlanta, an increase of nearly 4.5 hours from the original 2.5-hour itinerary. Most importantly, Shirali’s husband was scheduled to fly home one day before the original return date.

This means that his four-day trip to visit the couple’s daughter will only last three days.

“The problem is that he has very little time,” Shirali said. “I’m really angry.”

She said that WestJet refused to give her a refund, so she reluctantly accepted the couple’s departure flight and her husband’s return flight of $502 in credit, and rebooked them on another airline-an additional $707 .

“Now we have locked up credit and money,” Shirali said. “What if this happens again? For example, do I really want to use WestJet again?”

“Unpredictable demand” during COVID

When CBC News contacted WestJet for the first time last week about the cancellation of WestJet’s recent series of flights, the airline did not mention offering refunds.

WestJet had to make flight adjustments “to adapt to unpredictable and inconsistent demand trends affected by changes. [government] Travel policy and guidance,” Bell said.

She added that the airline “is doing its best to resolve the complaint.”

The federal government said it will soon relax restrictions on fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning from international travel. 2:14

Due to the pandemic, WestJet did not specify whether it believed the flight adjustment was beyond its control.

Consumer advocate Jack believes that at this point, the move is a controllable business decision.

“Airlines have months to figure out how to manage in this situation and understand their [passenger] The load is often. “

CBC News outlined to WestJet the airline’s commitment to cancel refunds related to the pandemic, APPR rules regarding refunds for flights within the airline’s control, and U.S. Department of Transportation It is stipulated that airlines to and from the United States must provide refunds for cancelled flights-for whatever reason.

Two of the four customers interviewed booked a flight to the U.S.

Bell responded that WestJet has determined that the four customers should indeed be refunded, but did not provide the reasons behind the decision.

As for Couture, she said WestJet agents contacted her on Thursday night to begin the refund process.

“If they did reimburse me, I would be very happy. It’s just—sorry, it took this money to get reimbursed.”

Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) said it has received Complaint Involved in this matter and is monitoring the situation. Two customers interviewed by CBC News have filed complaints with CTA.


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