A WestJet flight from Calgary arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Enfield, N.S., Monday, July 6, 2020. WestJet Airlines Ltd. is now offering refunds to customers with European flights that it cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

WestJet offers refunds to passengers with cancelled European flights

WestJet is contacting guests with eligible flights who had already accepted travel credit

WestJet Airlines Ltd. is offering refunds to customers with European flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travellers with flights to or from Europe and scheduled to depart between March 1 and Oct. 31 of this year can be reimbursed within four weeks, according to an update sent by WestJet to travel agents this month and obtained by The Canadian Press.

The policy marks a shift from the airline’s previous stance that offered flight credit or no-fee rebooking rather than reimbursement for trips that were cancelled as airlines halted the majority of their flights amid border shutdowns, quarantines and a collapse in travel demand.

WestJet is contacting guests with eligible flights who had already accepted travel credit to alert them to the new option, spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said in an email.

In June, WestJet adopted a similar approach to refunds for cancelled flights to or from the United States or United Kingdom.

The carrier’s policy stands in contrast to that of Air Canada, which has announced refund offers for travellers with flights departing from Europe but not for customers whose trips originated in Canada.

Air Canada is also disputing formal refund complaints its customers made to the U.S. Department of Transportation. There have been more than 1,700 of them, the second-highest number of any airline in May (the last month for which figures are available).

WestJet did not say what prompted the policy change.

Passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs said the reimbursement pledge is a welcome about-face, but one that should have come months ago.

“European law has been and remains that airlines that cancel flights for whatever reason must refund the entire ticket in the original form of payment to passengers,” Lukacs said.

Some travellers resorted to asking banks for credit card chargebacks, with mixed results, he said.

“Many people have been successful in getting chargebacks. But it’s a profoundly wrong situation when you have to go to such a length in order to get simply what you are owed.”

Clients with cancelled domestic flights or trips to Mexico or the Caribbean will receive information on refunds “at a later date,” WestJet’s note to travel agents says.

The Calgary-based carrier made a push into European markets last year, launching routes to London, Paris, Dublin, Glasgow and Rome in a bid to challenge Air Canada by offering transatlantic flights that target business passengers and the jet set.

Of those, only the Calgary-London and Calgary-Paris routes remain in operation, and “on an extremely reduced schedule,” Stewart said. The Paris route will be removed from the flight schedule by the end of September.

Domestic and U.S. flights make up the bulk of WestJet’s business in a typical year.

WestJet’s pivot follows months of backlash against Canadian airlines’ decision to offer credit or vouchers rather than refunds for most of the flights cancelled due to fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

A handful of passenger groups have proposed class-action lawsuits against airlines and complaints to the Canada Transportation Agency have soared in recent months.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the European Commission, which have offered billions of dollars in financial aid to airlines, require carriers to offer reimbursement to passengers who paid for services that were never rendered.

Unlike countries including France, Germany and the United States, Canada has held off on sector-specific support for carriers. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead rolled out financial aid available across industries, including the wage subsidy and loans starting at $60 million for large firms, that were available to airlines.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Air TravelCoronavirusWestJet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PJHL delays start of season as teams struggle to secure facilities

The junior B hockey league was hoping to start Sept. 29 but is now targeting mid-October

Missing Chilliwack woman last seen on Wednesday

Friends and family concerned for Joy-Lynn Leon, 42, who was last seen Sept. 23 on Mary Street

VIDEO: Mounties looking to catch Chilliwack bike-riding teen groper

Man caught on video slapping the backside of girl near CSS riding a bicycle

Abbotsford has a COVID-19 rate 10 times higher than Chilliwack

Abbotsford has been much harder hit by COVID-19 than its neighbour to the east

Chilliwack illusionist Chris Funk brings live magic, music to Cultural Centre

‘You’ll see some creations that have made appearances on some of the largest television shows in the world’

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Lower Mainland woman’s Halloween spirit

Langley’s Tanya Reid posted video offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read