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‘We can’t plan what happens’: Westjet denies refund of dying woman’s ticket

WATCH: The woman was hoping to visit family in Ontario one last time before her cancer became too much. As Alicia Draus reports, the airline is refusing to refund the ticket because it was purchased as basic fare.

Eric Wynne says his wife, Kathleen Spilek, has been battling cancer since 2015.

So when she went into remission, she decided to buy a WestJet ticket to see her nieces in case her condition reversed.

But on June 26, the family received news that Spilek had developed seven brain tumours.

“It’s been a few weeks since she went from not bad and mobile,” says Wynne. “It’s been a fast decline.”

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Because of her worsening condition, Wynne says she was placed in palliative care.

Since she could no longer make her flight, Wynne called WestJet to see if they could get a refund or if a credit could be issued.

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Wynne says he was told by Westjet representatives that “there was no refund.”

“We can’t plan what happens,” says Wynne. “[When] traumatic, quick problems, health issues or life issues [happen], there should be legislation to allow for a refund or credit.”

In an emailed response to Global News, WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell says that based on the type of ticket purchased, the airline will not provide a refund.

“We understand that it is disappointing to find out that travel plans cannot be changed or that no refund is given,” says Bell.

“We are satisfied that the vast majority of our guests are aware of the fare they are purchasing and the restrictions on it.”

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READ MORE: Canada’s air passenger bill of rights: What travellers won’t see until December

Canada’s federal government recently implemented a new air passenger bill of rights in July.

However, there is nothing in the regulations that says airlines should provide a refund or a credit in situations where an unexpected health issue prevents a travel on a purchased ticket.

Senior business instructor at Dalhousie University Dan Shaw says that while arguably morally questionable, the airline is within its rights not to issue a refund.

WATCH: (July 15, 2019) Garneau outlines changes for phase 1 of air passenger bill of rights

Garneau outlines changes for phase 1 of air passenger bill of rights
Garneau outlines changes for phase 1 of air passenger bill of rights
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“From a legal point of view it’s probably very clear [in] all the terms and conditions from every fare what their obligation is,” says Shaw. “Whether they have an ethical [point]… it’s probably debatable.”

Airlines operating in Canada are required by law to include all their terms and conditions of carriage in a legal document called a tariff — the contract between an airline and a passenger.

Where minimum obligations are not set in regulations, airlines are free to set their own policies, provided they are reasonable and non-discriminatory.

READ MORE: Lawsuit argues new Canadian air travel rules violate passengers’ charter rights

“I think that consumers should know that if they’re ordering tickets and you’re getting the basic, you have no recourse if a situation like [ours] happens,” says Wynne.

Despite the airline refusing to provide a refund, Wynne says that he’s speaking out because it’s the right thing to do.

“It’s not about the money,” says Wynne. “It’s about the principle.”

With files from Alicia Draus

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