The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has launched an investigation to determine whether WestJet policies are in line with new regulations established in July.
The investigation follows a complaint surrounding a July 22 incident involving an Edmonton couple who were bumped off a flight.
Chelsea Williamson said she and her husband had a flight booked from Edmonton to Venice, Italy on July 22 for their honeymoon, but when they arrived at the gate they were told that they no longer had seats on the flight.
Williamson said the couple was placed on different flights that arrived in Venice five hours later than originally scheduled.
“While abroad in Italy I contacted WestJet via direct Twitter message where I received information that a change of aircraft and overselling of tickets by WestJet’s partner airline, Delta, was the cause for the change in our itinerary,” Williamson wrote in an email.
She said when she came back from her honeymoon, WestJet guest support told her the airliner had changed the aircraft to a smaller one with fewer seats, which caused her and her husband being bumped from the flight.
Williamson said the couple was offered $125 WestJet dollars each as compensation.
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CTA said the complaint raises the possibility that WestJet’s policies are not in line with the new Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR). The agency said it will decide on its course of action after it receives certain information from WestJet.
“The Air Passenger Protection Regulations set out the minimum obligations airlines have towards passengers in a number of areas,” CTA Chair and CEO Scott Streiner said.
“It’s important that the wording and application of airline tariffs be consistent with those protections — and that, to the greatest extent possible, airlines and passengers have a common understanding on what’s required in different situations.
“This inquiry will help achieve that clarity.”
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The airline had this response to Global News regarding the inquiry:
“WestJet is cooperating with the Canadian Transportation Agency. While the investigation is ongoing we will refrain from providing comment on this matter.”
In an email response to Williamson, WestJet wrote:
“Operational requirements to change the flight can happen at any time prior to the departure of a flight. WestJet has offered compensation for the situation that you were in as this was an operational change,” the response read.
“We can certainly appreciate how disappointing and frustrating this was for you. Please be advised that if you would like to take this situation further you would need to contact the Canadian Transportation Agency.”
The new regulations, implemented in July, cover compensation for being denied boarding (being bumped), delays on the apron and damaged luggage.
Under those rules, passengers bumped from boarding due to overbooking are entitled to $2,400 in compensation and up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage.
Williamson believes she and her husband are entitled the compensation for overbooking.
“There doesn’t seem to be a way that we were able to find out about the change until we were at the gate,” she said. “If this happened to us at the gate then I believe that fully aligned with the definition of the deny boarding in WestJet’s tariffs, as well as in the new APPR, and that we are due compensation.”
The remainder of the rules, which cover how much an airline must pay a traveller if their flight is delayed and specify the level of service for which they’re eligible, come into force on Dec. 15.
Under the December regulations, passengers held up between three and six hours stand to get $400, held for six to nine hours can get $700 and travellers delayed more than nine hours could get $1,000.
Williamson said she hopes the inquiry will also lead to some changes.
“Whether it’s WestJet having to apply their own policies properly or whether there’s a gap that’s been identified in the regulations where an amendment needs to occur, hopefully something comes out of this.”