WestJet and its low-cost subsidiary Swoop will begin providing refunds to those passengers impacted by canceled flights this year. It marks a return to how WestJet dealt with refunds before COVID-19 sent everything belly up. While on the face of it, this is great news for long-suffering out-of-pocket passengers, there is a catch. It will take six to eight months to process all the outstanding payments.
WestJet back to putting “people first”
“We are an airline that has built its reputation on putting people first,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO in a statement. Mr Sims acknowledges this hasn’t always been happening this year, and his airline’s reputation with many disgruntled passengers isn’t as blue-chip as it once was.
Some have even threatened class actions against WestJet over unpaid refunds. Particularly unhappy were those who canceled their own flights or were flying discounted fares and hit a refund brick wall at WestJet.
There are reports 16,300 passengers requested chargebacks from their credit card issuers over WestJet and Swoop flights. Of that number, credit card companies refunded 89% of the requests.
“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,” says Mr Sims
Moving on from that mean culpa, the WestJet boss now wants to put things right.
“We are confident that we can now begin providing refunds proactively. We are the first national airline in Canada to do so.”
How’s the WestJet refund process going to work?
So, how is the refund process going to work? Firstly, don’t contact WestJet; they’ll contact you. Between them, WestJet and Swoop canceled swathes of flights this year. To date, both airlines had offered refunds only for specific flights, with the majority of bumped passengers offered credits for future flights. But neither WestJet nor Swoop are Robinson Crusoe doing that.
However, from November 2, both WestJet and Swoop will start offering refunds to passengers whose flights were canceled this year. The refund will get processed back onto your credit card, or in whatever form you paid for the ticket.
They are going to go back to the beginning of the year and working chronologically from there. So, if your canceled flight was in March, you’ll get contacted before someone whose canceled flight was in June.
But because there are so many people waiting for refunds, WestJet says there’s an administrative backlog. Getting refunds to everyone will take between six and nine months.
“We have heard loud and clear from the traveling public that in this COVID world, they are looking for reassurance on two fronts: the safest possible travel environment; and refunds,” says Mr Sims.
Not business as usual at WestJet, but things looking up
Meanwhile, while it’s not business as usual for WestJet, things are looking up. While around three-quarters of WestJet and Swoop’s planes still sit idle and thousands of staff have lost their jobs, the booking rate is now exceeding the cancelation rate.
“We went 72 days in a row where cancellations outstripped bookings,” said Mr Sims.
“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.”
Are you a WestJet or Swoop regular passenger? What’s your experience been like accessing refunds? Post a comment and let us know.