WestJet has announced that it will start providing refunds for passengers with flights cancelled by WestJet and Swoop, from any time period, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a media release on its website, as of Monday, November 2, 2020, WestJet will systematically contact eligible guests, starting with passengers with flights cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic. The entire refund process is expected to take at least six to nine months in order to work through all eligible requests.
Note that the refunds are thus far only for customers whose flights were cancelled by WestJet. Refunds are not yet available for customers who cancelled their own flights. In response to the question “Why not provide a refund to those who cancelled their own flights?” the website states that “We are focused on reinstating our refund practice in line with our regulatory tariff and all booking conditions that were in place pre-COVID.”
“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,” continued Mr. 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.”
Starting on Monday, November 2, 2020 passengers who are eligible for a refund to original form of payment will be proactively contacted by WestJet (there is no need for passengers to contact the airline themselves). The carrier will begin by contacting customers whose flights were cancelled by the airline at the start of the pandemic. WestJet notes in its press release that it “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”.
In response to the query “Why did you wait so long to provide refunds?” the carrier noted on its site that: “Since the onset of the pandemic, we have done everything we can to reduce costs and streamline our operations in the face of a 95 per cent drop in demand. 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.”
Ed Sims provided a longer personalized statement on the WestJet’s website, stating that “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.” You can read more of the personalized statement here.
WestJet provided the following additional information for customers looking for a refund:
- Further information can be found on westjet.com/refund.
- Eligible guests will be contacted by WestJet beginning Monday, November 2, 2020.
- Guests will be required to fill out a form.
- Eligible guests will be contacted in chronological order of cancellation, beginning with those flights cancelled in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic.
- WestJet 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.