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

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

Nikita, a four-year-old German Shepherd that was attacked by a buck in a backyard in Esquimalt Sunday is lucky the injury wasn't more severe. (Photo contributed by Suzette Goldsworthy)
Esquimalt dog owner issues alert after deer injures German shepherd

Nikita needed stitches after an early morning encounter

The Victoria Police Department headquarters. (Black Press Media file photo)
Investigation launched into man’s death after arrest in Victoria

IIO investigation to determine if police actions or inaction played a role in the man’s death

(Black Press Media file photo)
Police arrest man covered in blood on heels of significant Saanich crash into woods

Resident calls in home invasion in progress after crash

Capital Regional District Animal Control say an eight-month-old Rottweiler bit a Langford mother and her child near Glen Lake on Nov. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Large dog attacks mother and child in Langford

Mother puts three-year-old on top of car to protect him

Victoria School for Ideal Education at 2820 Belmont Avenue is the second school in Greater Victoria with an active confirmed COVID-19 exposure. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Private school becomes second Greater Victoria school with COVID-19 exposure

Victoria School for Ideal Education follows Lakeview Christian School in Saanich

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

Most Read