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WestJet passengers affected by strike seek to recoup losses

Click to play video: 'WestJet passenger compensation process raises concerns'
WestJet passenger compensation process raises concerns
WATCH: WestJet planes are in the air again after a mechanics strike cancelled thousands of flights. But passengers who had been booked on those flights are learning it’s not a straightforward process to get their money back. Meghan Cobb has more – Jul 8, 2024

WestJet planes are back in the air, and schedules are returning to normal, after the aircraft engineer strike cancelled thousands of flights over the busy Canada Day long weekend.

But passengers who had been scheduled to fly are now trying to recoup some of the out-of-pocket costs incurred because of the last-minute travel delays.

“So far I’ve seen no money,” says Will Heseltine, whose flight from Las Vegas to Calgary was cancelled because of the strike.

“I don’t really have a huge hope that I’ll be seeing any money so at this point I’m just on the hook for all of it.”

Heseltine and his friends rented a car and drove the 19 hours from Vegas to Calgary, hoping to be reimbursed through the insurance policy linked to his credit card. He filed the claim when he arrived in Calgary, but it was denied because the flight was cancelled as a result of the strike.

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“Best case I receive compensation from the WestJet flight that was cancelled that I booked three months ago, but that doesn’t even cover me for the potential last-minute flight,” says Heseltine.

The strike by WestJet mechanics over the Canada Day long weekend is still having ripple effects for travelers. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Heseltine isn’t the only passenger finding out they might not be covered. Insurance brokers say credit card coverage is limited and shouldn’t be the foundation of your insurance coverage, rather an extra for travel booked on that card.

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“When it’s outside of the airline’s control, then it’s a time to look at, ‘Would I have coverage under the insurance I have,” says Nikola Berube with AMA Travel. “Credit card coverage is very limiting, you always want to look at purchasing travel insurance.”

However, additional trip interruption and cancellation insurance doesn’t guarantee to reimburse travellers in the case of a cancellation. Coverage will often depend on known risks, including a strike notice.

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“Our policy reads strikes will not be covered for claims unless it is unannounced,” explains Berube.

“Not every policy has that worked, it’s just all strikes are not included.”

Travel Secure president and CEO Martin Firestone says while you aren’t guaranteed to be covered, buying a comprehensive insurance policy when you book your trip gives you the best chance at covering any unexpected costs.

Freestone says in cases like this one, credit cards likely won’t cover expenses, WestJet is only refunding the amount of the original ticket, so the only people who will be reimbursed are those who purchased comprehensive plans well ahead of the strike notice.

“You have to understand the stability clause,” says Firestone. “Many insurers have different ways of looking at it, but typically good insurers will say the reason for cancellation can’t be anything that was unstable 60 days prior to buying the policy.”

A statement on WestJet’s website says the airline is working to process passenger claims in accordance with the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR).

According to the APPR, WestJet had to rebook travellers on a flight departing within 48 hours of the original booking, but because it was a busy travel weekend that was difficult, so passengers are able to request a refund to their original form of payment.

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However, WestJet does not need to cover hotels or meal expenses because of delayed travel.

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