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WestJet is not keeping customers who have had flights cancelled the past eight months up in the air over refunds.
The airline plans to start issuing refunds beginning Nov. 2 for all flights cancelled by WestJet and Swoop since the beginning of the pandemic.
Emily-Anne Anderson of Sydney, who had booked a WestJet flight to Alberta back in March for the late spring but ended up seeing it cancelled, said she was only offered a voucher in the form of ‘WestJet dollars,’ good for a year.
“I’m very happy to hear we are finally going to get full refunds,” she said. “We were not supposed to travel so I don’t think we should have been given vouchers or have had to wait this long.”
In saying that, Anderson can’t imagine what companies like WestJet are experiencing right now, with the downturn in the industry. What’s even worse is losing WestJet at the Sydney airport and that no competition might mean hiked flight costs in the future.
“That was my go-to airline, I love their crew, always caring and accommodating,” she said.” I’m told they will be back someday and when they are, they will get my business.”
In a release from WestJet, as of Nov. 2, the company will begin contacting eligible guests, beginning with those with flights cancelled at the onset of the pandemic.
The refund process is expected to take six to nine months.
“We are an airline that has built its reputation on putting people first,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO, in the release. “We have heard loud and clear from the travelling public that in this COVID world they are looking for reassurance on two fronts: the safest possible travel environment; and refunds.”
“I’m very happy to hear we are finally going to get full refunds,” — WestJet customer Emily-Anne Anderson of Sydney
Throughout the pandemic, Sims said they have been providing a safe environment through their Safety Above All program. Now, he said, they will begin issuing the refunds
“Through the efforts of thousands of WestJetters, we are confident that we can now begin providing refunds proactively,” he said. “We are the first national airline in Canada to do so.”
Customers eligible for a refund to the original form of payment will be contacted by WestJet, beginning with those flights cancelled by the airline at the start of the pandemic. Expecting an administrative backlog, WestJet asks the public to wait to be contacted as they work through requests as quickly as possible.
Most Canadian airlines have been offering 24-month travel vouchers.
Last week, WestJet announced as of Nov. 2, they will be suspending operations to Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown, and Quebec City while significantly reducing service to Halifax and St. John’s. The suspension of services was explained as a result of the impact of domestic quarantines and continued decrease in demand.
Morgan Bell, a spokesperson for WestJet, said in a short matter of time, demand for air travel dropped almost 90 per cent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closure of borders to travel. Since March, WestJet has reduced the size of its active workforce by more than 9,000 and parked more than two-thirds of its aircraft.
“We are now solely a domestic carrier, keeping essential travel and goods flowing to the 38 Canadian airports we currently serve,” Bell said in an email response to questions.
Bell said as the various jurisdictions in which they fly begin to open again, their decisions will always be made with the health, safety and mental well-being of their guests and their people at the forefront.
“It is our commitment that all processes and procedures will be thoroughly evaluated and adapted as required to meet the new operating reality of a post-COVID world,” she added.
A message was sent to Air Canada inquiring about their policy in conjunction with cancelled flights but they had not responded by deadline.