It’s one thing to know that travel agent associations are lobbying the government on agents’ behalf. It’s another to actually hear it and see it in action.
CALGARY — WestJet has announced it will voluntarily provide refunds to original form of payment for guests with flights cancelled by WestJet and Swoop, from any time period, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting Nov. 2, the airline will systematically contact 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 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, Nov. 2, we will proactively provide refunds to original form of payment to itineraries cancelled by WestJet and Swoop.”
Effective Nov. 2, 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.
Here are additional details:
• 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.
Sims added: “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. 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.”
AIR CANADA’S TWEET TO WESTJET
An affidavit filed to the Federal Court in August 2020 by WestJet regulatory affairs director Lorne Mackenzie notes that of the almost 16,300 WestJet passengers who requested chargebacks from their credit card issuers between March and Aug. 19, only 11% were denied. Within the same period, 39% of chargeback requests on WestJet Vacations trips were denied.
WestJet’s refund announcement comes days after opposition parties demanded the federal government ensure that passengers receive refunds as a condition of any airline bailouts.
WestJet’s offer applies to all cancelled tickets in the wake of COVID-19, refundable or non-refundable. Air Canada has refunded $1.2 billion in refundable tickets since the start of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Following WestJet’s announcement, Air Canada tweeted: “@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.”
WESTJET BLOG POST
In an Oct. 21 WestJet Blog post titled ‘Refunds – It’s About Time’, Sims had this to say:
“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. Up until this point, quite plainly, the financial position of airlines around the world has been precarious. Since March, we have done everything we can to reduce costs and streamline our operations as best we could in the face of a 95% drop in demand. 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. These are devastating statistics, ones I never thought I would see in my 35-year career in this industry.”
“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. 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 went on to thank WestJet’s passengers, and WestJetters themselves.
“To our guests – thank you for your patience these past eight months as we did everything to ensure we could afford to get to this news today. Please understand this will take us many months to clear the backlog but we are up to the task and we appreciate your patience as our digital and contact centre teams ramp up our capabilities to provide refunds at this scale.
“To our WestJetters – thank you for your patience and understanding as we have navigated through this crisis. We are by no means out of the woods yet. You have been the face of WestJet throughout this crisis and you have always represented our airline commendably.
“To the governments across Canada – we appreciate the support we have received thus far. The Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program was a vital lifeline for us, and we are appreciative of all it has allowed us to do.
“Airlines play a critical role in the travel and tourism food chain, bringing tens of millions of people to Canada each year; filling our hotels, restaurants, convention centres and tourist attractions. We reunite loved ones around the world. The greatest action the government could take as we begin to recover is to reassess the aviation infrastructure as a whole. While the industry, and Canadians, struggle to get back on their feet, WestJet have today taken a further step to accelerate our country’s economic recovery.”
Many responses to the post asked WestJet why it wasn’t refunding cancelled WestJet Vacations bookings, although there were words of praise that WestJet was refunding WestJet tickets.
With file from The Canadian Press