WestJet says it will begin providing refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled due to the pandemic.
The Calgary-based airline said it will begin contacting all eligible flyers with WestJet and Swoop on Nov. 2. It will begin with those whose flights were cancelled in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, to offer refunds in the original form of payment.
The process is expected to take six to nine months, the company said. It asked customers to wait to be contacted, in order to avoid overloading its call centre.
“We are an airline that has built its reputation on putting people first,” said Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO, in an emailed 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.”
Sims said in a letter posted to the company’s website that since March, it has done everything it can to reduce costs in the face of a 95 per cent drop in demand.
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“Up until this point, quite plainly, the financial position of airlines around the world has been precarious,” Sims said.
“We went 72 days in a row where cancellations outstripped bookings, something that has not happened — ever — in our almost 25-year history. Thankfully, we are seeing bookings higher than cancellations now but 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.”
The company said it’s the first national airline in the country to proactively begin refunding customers during the pandemic — a comment that Air Canada contested.
“Misleading statement! WestJet is just now catching up to our policy to refund refundable fares. We have already refunded over $1.2 billion in refundable fares to date,” Air Canada wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
Within 10 minutes of that tweet, more than a dozen replies from customers said they still had not received their refund.
Let’s clear the air. We’re offering refunds for guests if we cancelled their flight. Even the lowest cost tickets will be refunded to original form of payment if WestJet caused the cancellation.
Air Canada said in an emailed statement that it has reimbursed refundable tickets since the start of the pandemic, and that vouchers are offered to those who have purchased non-refundable tickets.
In June, both Air Canada and WestJet began offering refunds to some passengers whose flights originated outside of Canada. WestJet offered refunds on flights originating from or landing in the U.S. or U.K., and Air Canada offered refunds to those whose flights originated in the EU — but not in Canada.
Air Canada made the most recent U.S. Air…