WestJet Pulls Out Of An Entire Region Of Canada, Won’t Give Customers Refunds

U.S. airlines have all found religion on customer refunds. United and JetBlue especially tried holding onto customer money when cancelling flights, but the Department of Transportation made clear that is a violation of U.S. law.

Customers up north in Canada have had a much tougher time. I’ve written about how Air Canada has been a flagrant violator of the basic principle that if a merchant doesn’t provide the service they’ve been contracted for, they can’t keep a customer’s money.

Air Canada has been keeping customer money when cancelling flights, and even told the U.S. Department of Transportation to go pound sand over the issue (although a couple of readers have obtained refunds after filing DOT complaints).

The Canadian Transportation Agency said they thought vouchers could be a reasonable substitute if the vouchers were flexible enough. However they then had to come back and clarify that this opinion did not affect airline obligations or passenger rights. It seemed like a fair result to them, but didn’t mean customers weren’t entitled to refunds.

Still, Canada’s WestJet – which is a joint venture partner with Delta – claims this Canadian Transportation Agency opinion as justification for refusing to refund customers even as they are pulling out of Eastern Canada almost in its entirety on mere weeks’ notice. They are offering vouchers to customer, and refusing refunds, even when they will not serve a customer’s region of the country any longer.

WestJet is eliminating 100 flights, or 80% of their service to Atlantic Canada effective November 2 and dropping Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City as well as significantly scaling back their presence in St. John’s and Halifax.

The moves mean that the entirety of WestJet’s service to Atlantic Canada will now be based out of Halifax, with daily flights to Toronto, Calgary and St. John’s at least once a day. This time last year, the airline flew 28 different flight routes across the region. As of next month, they will have just three. Except for the Halifax to St. John’s flight, no other Canadian city east of Montreal will have a WestJet flight coming in or out of it for the foreseeable future.

Copyright: dennizn / 123RF Stock Photo

WestJet says customers will get travel credits, and since it may be years before they return to a customer’s city they “will extend the travel credit expiry date” beyond 24 months. WestJet may never return to some cities, may never return with service that works for a customer, and years into the future the name of the game is breakage. Indeed, customers may actually die while waiting to use their WestJet credits.

Yet the airline “notes the Canadian Transportation Agency has deemed acceptable given the realities of COVID-19” to offer flight credits and not refunds. Perhaps this brazen move will challenge that earlier guidance.

(HT: @DaneCreekPhoto)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — After I use my “voucher” from Air Canada, I will NEVER, as long as I live, buy anything other than a massive error fare from them.

  2. Can only blame the government for not assisting with similiar acts like CARES in the usa…. By going this route AC and WJ would have been able to offer refunds and not credit….

  3. This is so unfortunate for travelers! Who wants a travel credit with an airline that doesn’t offer flights from an airport in the area?

  4. good on westjet
    atlantic provinces created their own bubble shutting down even other canadians from other provinces
    they can eat shit and die for all I care
    you dig your own grave…..

  5. Why doesn’t the article mention the fact that the airlines in the US received BILLIONS of dollars from their federal government? The Canadian government has done nothing to help support aviation in Canada. Although, they have raised landing fees and air traffic control charges.

  6. I think airline financial consultants are advising airlines to sell tickets for future flights to unsuspecting passengers, then cancel their flights indefinitely, refuse all refunds for canceled flights, and use this customer revenue for executive salaries and bonuses. Do you agree or disagree?

  7. @Jason Roberts – are you kidding? Air Canada has been receiving subsidies in the form of protectionism for over a decade (since the 2009 handout). The ME3 who would destroy them longhaul are limited into Canada

    And allowing Air Canada to steal people’s money during the pandemic is just as good as a handout.

  8. I blame the government of Canada…if they can give billions to other companies, why haven’t they helped out the airlines, lower airport tax. I will always fly WestJet.

  9. Taking money for a service, cancelling that service with no plans or committment to provide that service in the future, and refusing to refund that money to the customer is unjust enrichment, pure and simple.

  10. 1. Canadian airlines could access the Emergency Wage Subsidy program like any other Canadian business or non-profit could. Both AC and WS in fact did access these funds. AC kept 16k employees on payroll longer through it, WS somewhere around 3k. The subsidy paid out 75% of an employee’s wage, for about 6 months.

    The suggestion by some readers above that Canadian airlines did not receive any assistance is ludicrous.

    2. It is incredibly brazen of WestJet to pull this. If WestJet makes *Air Transat* look good by comparison (which cancelled just about all Western Canada flights and issued refunds), you know something has gone terribly wrong.

    3. As a Canadian, this whole ordeal has shown me that I should never book a trip abroad with these domestic carriers ever again. It’s shown me that I should have zero faith in the CTA and Minister of Transport. It’s shown me that, if I need to book a WS or AC (domestic) flight, that I should try to buy the ticket through Delta or United (or, elsewhere, through Lufthansa, etc.). I’ll ensure money flows in ways where the USDOT or EU regulations can be useful, since Canadian ones are worthless. So be it. These airlines will have only themselves to blame when customers do not trust them with their money.

  11. Airlines & Airports are “hanging their hat” on Testing in an attempt to achieve a travel recovery, but the reality is that Consumer patience and trust has now gone. Regardless of the legalities of this, contempt for their Customers and also the Law is what shines through, for all the wrong reasons.
    Such action indicates both desperation and sheer arrogance. Who is advising them on “Brand Image & Protection”? The day of reckoning has really now arrived for the Travel Industry.. to date most seem clueless as to how they will come out at the other end of the tunnel…if at all!

  12. Airlines have been screwing customers for years when it comes to refunds …there just like the phone company’s in canada..the government wont go after them …that’s the bottom line

  13. Can one really blame WestJet for pulling out of the maritimers? They have kept their borders closed to rest of Canada and the world for the last 6 months, and now with cases rising again, will be closed for the foreseeable future.

    Refund/credit is the important question though, and direction needs to come from the CTA. Without a firm answer from them, can you really WestJet or AC for trying to use the most broad brush version of the rules in these times?

  14. I cant beleive that a company as big as westjet is willing to screw potential future customers. I understand that times are tough, not just for them but for the people who now have no access to the funds that were paid in good faith for a service that is no longer provided. How many people can afford to have to pay twice for a service. I know I cant and will not fly westjet again unless I can get my refund in the way it was paid out.

  15. The story should run like this , Thanks to Liberal Party The Canadian Airlines are on the verge of bankruptcy and Justin Trudeau’s partners at WE Charity the Kielburger’s have conveniently moved their entire families to England in the last 2 months.and are having a fire sale on their $200 Million of Buildings that They and Justin own on Queen St in Toronto

  16. Atlantic Canada can’t afford to do what they have done…shut everyone else in Canada out! The government only has so much money to handout. These are sad days for sure. Don’t expect refunds on anything…spend only what you have very carefully and grow your own food!

  17. Corporatism at its worst. Yet they beg for assistance from the nation and the people when times get tough. Even after they’ve been stafting those people for years. Let them burn.

  18. Am still awaiting a refund for my return to Canada portion of airfare to Air Canada, from Costa Rica on May26th, 2020 earlier this year.

  19. The fact that VIA Rail Canada has suspended its Ocean train between Montreal and Halifax via Moncton doesn’t help matters in the Maritimes either.

  20. In response to a couple of comments:

    “Canadian airlines could access the Emergency Wage Subsidy program like any other Canadian business or non-profit could. Both AC and WS in fact did access these funds. AC kept 16k employees on payroll longer through it, WS somewhere around 3k. The subsidy paid out 75% of an employee’s wage, for about 6 months.”

    That’s 75% of their wage up to a maximum of $847 per week before deductions. That comes out to more like $600 a week, or $16,000 per employee for the 6 months you mentioned. Compare that to the tens of BILLIONS of sector specific aid that other countries are supporting their airlines with.

    “I cant beleive that a company as big as westjet is willing to screw potential future customers.”

    They’re probably doing this so that they don’t collapse and are unable to serve ANY customers… Foreign airlines have been able to offer refunds when they were financially supported and able to do so.

  21. P.M Trudeau,using his flowery drama teacher voice, basically has told Canadian airline passengers to go to hell.His priority is a vibrant airline industry at our expense.
    This government is there for big business,not the average Canadian airline passenger.
    Maybe his mother,wife,and his brother should have received vouchers from the We organization.

  22. Trudeau and company do not care about your average airline passenger.
    The Liberals showed their true colors when they revised the passenger charter of rights last year and tried to make us believe it was a victory for the passengers when in fact,the opposite was true.

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