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Friday, June 26, 2020

My experience getting a refund from WestJet for cancelled U.S. flights


Earlier this month we let you know that WestJet began to offering refunds for those travellers who had flights to the U.S. and U.K. cancelled by the airline. In the article here we detailed how and when you could approach WestJet for a refund from waiting to get the email from them to the time period of when you should be calling in. What follows is my experience in getting such flights refunded.

The time period to get a refund for U.S. and U.K. flights
Photo Credit: YYCCL3 on FlyerTalk

The Rewards Canada family had flights booked to the U.S. for Easter Break in April under two reservations. The reason for two reservations is that both my wife and I used our companion vouchers from our WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercards for our kids. When you want to book flights using those vouchers from two different accounts they have to be made under separate reservations. We took the wait and see approach when the pandemic started and eventually those flights were cancelled by WestJet (not by us) in late March.

Snippet from the email about our flight cancellation

The money we paid was put into a travel bank and the companion vouchers were placed back into our accounts. At that time it state that if we preferred a refund the information would come at a later date - it's almost like WestJet knew that legally flights to the U.S. would have to be refunded but they wanted to wait if the DOT may loosen that restriction to the help the airlines.


On June 8th we received emails from WestJet that we could now contact them for a refund:


This email came 8 days sooner than the chart we referenced in our earlier post and the next day I looked to call WestJet to process those refunds. Unfortunately this was the wait time to call in and WestJet didn't have their 'schedule a call back' button available.



I decided to wait a few days to see if those times subsided at all. Nine days later on June 17th I was lucky to find that the WestJet website had the schedule a call back button showing and it allowed me to schedule a call back to process the refund. This was the first time in nine days that I saw the schedule a call back button.  I scheduled the call back around 9am MT and again the wait time stated over 600 minutes so I wasn't expecting a call back until late afternoon or early evening but I actually received it just after 1pm MT. The call itself took 51 minutes because the two separate reservations meant everything had to be done twice. Add in the fact that part of our original flight payments also used WestJet dollars and some travel bank credits and that extended the phone call duration - mainly due to some back end issue with transferring around the travel bank credits. All said and done everything worked out and the agent on the other end was cordial and very helpful - she got everything sorted and I was happy to have it complete. She said we could expect to see the refunds to our WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard in about 3-5 business days and sure enough by June 30 the funds were back on the credit card.

I have a couple of thoughts in the process, first I don’t know if it will ever happen but how awesome would it be if one day WestJet day allowed multiple vouchers from the same family or household to be used in a single booking! That would really simplify any potential issues surrounding flights changes or in this case cancellations and refunds as well as status recognition. The latter issue arises if only one family member has status those benefits won't be extended to the other reservation. This happened to us sometime ago before the entire family became Gold elite members - two of us were Zone 1 for boarding while the other two family members were Zone 2. Second, it would be nice if you could request refunds online somehow rather than having to call in. It would definitely help in reducing those call wait times!

Overall though I'm happy that we got our money back - something I know thousands of Canadians are also hoping for but not getting right now. I'm in the camp that all flights should be refunded - not just those for the U.S. and U.K.. Most of Canada's airlines have the liquidity to make this happen but there not doing it and the government has basically done nothing. The fight is going strong from Air Passenger Rights and other consumer protection groups to push the government to change its stance on refunds. Hopefully with enough of push this is something that will happen soon. I know its not ideal for the airlines but it is even less ideal for consumers right now who have lost jobs or have reduced income, having that money in their pocket is critical for some to survive.

What boat are you in? Have you had tickets cancelled on you and have not received a refund? Are you OK with travel vouchers or is it critical for you to get that cash back? Let us know in the comments below.

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