This story was updated on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at 10:08 p.m. EST
The WestJet Group of companies announced on Wednesday (Oct 21) that it will begin providing refunds to original form of payment for those guests with flights cancelled by WestJet and Swoop, from any time period, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, WestJet will systematically contact eligible guests, beginning with those with flights cancelled at the onset of the pandemic.
WestJet is saying that it is the first national carrier in Canada to voluntarily provide refunds to original form of payment.
However, Air Canada is already disputing that claim, posting on its Twitter Wednesday night at 7:48 p.m. EST that WestJet's statement is "misleading" and that it is "catching up" to a policy that Air Canada already had in place.
Air Canada has, notably, been refunding refundable fares for some time, returning some $1.2 billion in funds to eligible customers to date, the airline said.
While it originally appeared that WestJet would only be issuing refunds to passengers who purchased refundable tickets, PAX can now confirm that WestJet will be refunding any fares, including basic fares, for cancelled flights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WestJet tweeted back at Air Canada to "clear the air," saying:
Canada's Minister of Transport Marc Garneau also took to his Twitter account Wednesday night, applauding WestJet for "taking a good step in the right direction."
Garneau, who has been criticized by aviation workers for not doing enough to revive Canada's airline industry, also tweeted that "Canadians deserve refunds for cancelled trips as a result of COVID-19."
Six to nine-month waiting time
The refund process is expected to take six to nine months to work through eligible requests.
“We are an airline that has built its reputation on putting people first,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “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. We have been delivering on a safe environment through our Safety Above All program since the onset of the pandemic and as of Monday, November 2, we will proactively provide refunds to original form of payment to itineraries cancelled by WestJet and Swoop.”
“It has been incredibly disheartening for anyone working here at one of Canada’s most beloved brands not to be able to demonstrate that we have our guests at the heart of every decision,” added Sims. “Through the efforts of thousands of WestJetters, we are confident that we can now begin providing refunds proactively. We are the first national airline in Canada to do so.”
Effective Monday, November 2, 2020 guests eligible for a refund to original form of payment will be proactively contacted by WestJet, beginning with those flights cancelled by the airline at the start of the pandemic.
WestJet expects there will be an administrative backlog and asks for guests to wait to be contacted as we work through requests as quickly as possible.
"You’re looking for a refund and we get it"
In a posting entitled "Refunds - It's about time" published on WestJet's blog, Ed Sims wrote:
"We understand completely that the title of this blog post is what most Canadians are feeling right now. You’re looking for a refund and we get it," Sims wrote.
The CEO noted that WestJet is now seeing bookings higher than cancellations but added that the airline is still at a level that "sees more than 140 of the 181 aircraft in our fleet parked and more than 4,000 WestJetters permanently laid off."
"These are devastating statistics, ones I never thought I would see in my 35-year career in this industry," Sims wrote.
Sims admitted that it's been "incredibly disheartening" for anyone working at WestJet to not be able to demonstrate that "we have our guests at the heart of every decision."
"Love us or hate us right now, we are doing everything we can to make sure we’re around tomorrow, and next year, for you hopefully to, love us once more," Sims wrote.
Additional Information about WestJet refunds:
- Further information can be found on westjet.com/refund
- Eligible guests will be contacted by WestJet beginning Monday, November 2, 2020.
- Eligible guests will be contacted in chronological order of cancellation, beginning with those flights cancelled in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic.
- We ask guests to wait until they are contacted by WestJet in order to not overload the Contact Centre.
- WestJet Vacations guests will continue to follow the process already established.
This is a developing story. PAX has reached out to WestJet for further comment.
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