WestJet/Swoop First Canadian Airlines To Refund Any Flight Cancelled Due To COVID
Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw
WestJet and its subsidiary Swoop have taken the unprecedented step to provide refunds to original form of payment for guests with flights cancelled – regardless of the fare - as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming the first national airlines in Canada to do so.
WestJet confirmed that refunds will be provided on lowest cost tickets in a tweet on 21OCT in response to an Air Canada tweet challenging the claim that WS is first.
Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO, says the company "has built its reputation on putting people first. 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.”
WestJet says it will begin contacting eligible guests on 02NOV, starting with those whose flights were cancelled at the onset of the pandemic in MAR. WestJet says it expects there will be an "administrative backlog" and asks guests to wait to be contacted so as not to overload the contact centre.
The company expects the refund process to take six to nine months.
WestJet also confirmed in a tweet that flights booked through a travel agency or advisor will also be refunding to the original form of payment.
Where a guest chose to cancel their itinerary -- whether in anticipation of the impact of COVID-19 or for any other reason -- the full value of the flights will be returned as a WestJet Travel Bank credit, valid for 24 months, the airline says.
On its FAQ page, WestJet provides a response as to why it is providing refunds now, and not earlier in the pandemic.
"While we are starting to see bookings outstrip cancellations, we are 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. Through these structural changes and the efforts of thousands of WestJetters, we are we now in a position to begin providing refunds proactively,” it says.
Despite the lack of sector-specific support from the government, WestJet points out this now puts it in line with refund requirements in every other jurisdiction it operates, particularly the U.S., U.K. and EU.
Eligible guests will be contacted by WestJet beginning 02NOV, 2020.
Eligible guests will be contacted in chronological order of cancellation, beginning with those flights cancelled in MAR 2020 at the outset of the pandemic.
WS asks 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.
“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.”
Sims indicated his sympathy for the frustrations expressed by consumers over the last eight months in a blog entitled "Refunds - It's about time.”
In it, he writes: "You’re looking for a refund and we get it.
“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.”
Anna Kroupina Journalist
Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.