After months of pushback, WestJet on Wednesday said it was now moving to provide refunds to all passengers who had their WestJet or Swoop flights cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news makes WestJet the first major Canadian carrier to move toward universal refunds for those flights and ends months of pushback from consumer and travel advisors requesting refunds instead of travel vouchers for their impacted travel plans.
“We are an airlines that has built its reputation on putting people first,” WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said in a statement announcing the news on Wednesday. “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. “
WestJet says that it will be contacting customers starting on Nov. 2 to alert them that they will be refunding to the original form of payment. The carrier also said that it will start with the flight that were cancelled by WestJet at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will work its way from there.
Passengers who were booked on those cancelled flights can expect a delay as WestJet works through the requests “as quickly as possible.” WestJet is asking consumers and advisors not to contact the airline directly in order to not overload its contact center.
Now, pressure is mounting on Canada’s other major carrier, Air Canada, to match WestJet’s policy.
In August, Air Canada was labeled as the worst foreign airline for refund complaints according to the Air Travel Consumer Report, which said that the U.S. Department of Transpiration received 1,028 complaints about Air Canada regarding refunds in June, the most of any non-U.S. carrier.
Both Air Canada and WestJet are subject to a class action lawsuit that will be heard in Canada’s Federal Court on Nov. 2, the same day that the new refund policy is set to kick-off.