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B.C. woman says WestJet is denying her a refund after airline admits to error on website

Click to play video 'WestJet customer denied refund after flight change' WestJet customer denied refund after flight change
A WestJet customer is being denied a refund she says she was promised when the airline changed her flight but as Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa explains, nothing showed up on the traveller's credit card statement after she accepted the refund online.

A WestJet customer says she is being denied a refund after the airline promised her one.

“They offered me something. They promised it to me and now it’s disappeared,” said Lois Carefoot.

The Surrey, B.C. resident booked a round-trip flight from Vancouver to Edmonton on January 22.  Carefoot received a notification from WestJet on March 9 alerting her about an itinerary change to her upcoming flight on April 17.

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“I was debating whether to take the offer of accepting the flight or a full refund that was offered at that time,” Carefoot said.

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Carefoot says she decided to cancel her flight on March 17 and accept the refund option offered online.

“It was an option where you check the box that you wanted a refund back to your original form of payment, which was my Mastercard,” Carefoot said.

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Immediately, after she selected the refund option, Carefoot says she received the following online statement from WestJet:

“Thank you. The selected flight(s) will be cancelled and your refund request has been submitted for processing. For refunds to original form of payment, please allow up to 14 days for your request to be processed.”

However, weeks went by and Carefoot says there was no sign of a refund on her credit card. Carefoot says she reached out to WestJet again and was told to be patient and wait another 30 to 40 days.

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At the end of June, Carefoot says she eventually received another response from WestJet in an email stating:

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“Thank you for calling in today with your concern of the refund to your credit card for a schedule change that you experienced. I understand that on March 17th 2020 you cancelled your reservation online and were [advised] you would receive a refund in 14 business days which never happened.  Unfortunately, this was an error on the website at that time. With all the changes that were going on due to COVID-19 the website was late in getting updated. I have requested that your concern be escalated to a senior agent, the senior agents have advised that if you wish to escalate to go [to] the Canadian Transportation Agency which can offer mediation.”

Carefoot says she was in shock over WestJet’s response.

“The mistakes weren’t mine,” she said. “It was WestJet’s mistake.”

Read more: Air Canada changes policy for customers whose flights were cancelled due to COVID-19

Gabor Lukacs, founder of Air Passenger Rights, a non-profit consumer group focused on air travel issues, says the federal government needs to be doing more for Canadian consumers.

“The primary question is how come WestJet is getting away with this? The primary question is why is the government not enforcing passenger rights?” he said.

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Consumer Matters reached out to WestJet asking why Carefoot was being denied a refund because of a computer error and received the following response:

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“As the CTA noted in the April 22 clarification, airline tariffs do not always provide for cash refunds especially in cases beyond our control. WestJet believes refunding with travel credits is an appropriate and responsible approach in extraordinary circumstances such as the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, the CTA reaffirmed that vouchers for future travel can help protect passengers from losing the full value of their flights, and improve the odds that over the longer term, consumer choice and diverse service offerings will remain in Canada’s air transportation sector.”

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Carefoot says there was no explanation for the flight change when she was initially notified by WestJet back in March. However, WestJet told Consumer Matters:

“Network changes, such as the one sent to this guest where we adjusted the timing, happen frequently and have nothing to do with APPR [Air Passenger Protection Regulations]. WestJet did not cancel this flight, the guest made the decision to cancel her ticket. “
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The company added:

“WestJet believes refunding with travel credits is an appropriate and responsible approach in extraordinary circumstances such as the COVID-19 crisis.”

Carefoot says she’s now approaching her credit card company for a chargeback on the basis of services not received and says she’ll think twice about flying with WestJet in the future.

“If we are all in this together, we got to help each other.”