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

North District RCMP are urging the public’s assistance in locating Prince George resident Amber Weutz, 25, last seen Oct. 18 in the Canim Mahood Lake area east of 100 Mile House. (Photo submitted)
RCMP release more information on missing Prince George woman

Amber Weutz, 25, was last seen in the Canim and Mahood Lake area on Oct. 18

One of the new fees being proposed by the City of Quesnel for 2021 is a $50-per-tonne fee for all commercial cardboard going over the weigh scale, which is meant to help offset the cost of over $100 per tonne to process it. (City of Quesnel Facebook Photo)
New landfill fees being proposed in Quesnel for 2021

City council is reviewing fees and charges for municipal services, which would go into effect Jan. 1

From left, Cariboo Regional District director Barb Bachmeier, North Cariboo Seniors’ Council (NCSC) secretary Sally Service, NCSC president Brenda Gardiner and Quesnel Coun. Mitch Vik were all decked out in masks while at the NCSC open house Friday, Oct. 30 in Spirit Square in downtown Quesnel. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
North Cariboo Seniors’ Council aims to help Quesnel seniors

Council president Brenda Gardiner said COVID-19 has “ripped off the Band-Aid” for seniors’ issues

Two bridge players sit more than six metres apart while playing on iPads at the Quesnel Seniors’ Centre. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Taking tricks again at the Quesnel Seniors’ Centre

Bridge is back, but now socially distanced using tablets

More than 1,500 vote-by-mail packages have been received by Cariboo North election officials. (Katya Slepian - Black Press Media)
B.C. VOTES 2020: All Cariboo North ballots will be counted Nov. 6

More than 1,500 vote-by-mail packages have been received by Elections BC

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

Michelle Stoney carved this pumpkin on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at her brother's home where their family gathers each year to carve pumpkins for Halloween. (Michelle Stoney, Gitxsan Artist Facebook photo)
Gitxsan artist carves culture in Halloween pumpkin

Michelle Stoney spent more than three hours on her latest holiday creation

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Most Read