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Lethbridge family airs WestJet woes after flight cancellation; warns others to be diligent

Click to play video 'Lethbridge family seeking cash refund after WestJet cancels flight over lack of demand' Lethbridge family seeking cash refund after WestJet cancels flight over lack of demand
WATCH ABOVE: James Nilsson, along with his wife and three children, were supposed to fly to Barbados with WestJet in October. Three weeks before their scheduled trip, they were told the flight didn’t have enough demand and was cancelled by the airline. As Eloise Therien explains, they aren’t upset with the cancellation, but are frustrated a cash refund was not offered. – Sep 18, 2020

Lethbridge resident James Nilsson is speaking out after WestJet could not provide his family with a cash refund or alternate flights from a cancelled trip to Barbados.

The family booked the tickets on Aug. 30 through the WestJet website after doing some digging.

“We ensured that we had cancellation insurance through our credit card, we looked at the flights, we made sure there were multiple airlines flying,” Nilsson explained.

“We looked at the frequency of the flights so that if we’re down there and something changes, we know that we would have a reasonable chance of getting home.”

Read more: WestJet offers refunds to passengers with cancelled European flights

However, an email on Sept. 13 threw a wrench in their plans.

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Nilsson says they were told WestJet had to cancel the flight and the airline could not provide any alternatives.

“They reopened these flights and then they realized there wasn’t enough demand for them.

“It was a demand issue based on their miscalculations on what demands would be like on these flights.”

Read more: Canadian airlines cancel hundreds of flights as hopes fade for spike in demand

Because travel is so uncertain and tedious during the COVID-19 crisis, Nilsson understood that circumstances could change.

“Honestly, we have no problem that it was cancelled, that’s just some of the risk that we took with booking travel during this time,” he explained.

“The issue is that, know you, it’s not just a cancellation, [we] can’t re-book. We have to come up with money for a family of five to rebook our tickets with another airline.”
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Nilsson was told the airline could not provide the type of refund they requested – back to his original method of payment– but rather a travel voucher worth the same amount.

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Since flights to Barbados were no longer being offered for their time frame, Nilsson says this money — around $4,000 — is simply being held up.

“WestJet has consistently provided change/cancel options to all guests impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, including the ability to rebook flights with no change fee, to refund the full value of their flight to a WestJet Travel Bank valid for use within 24 months for bookings made directly with WestJet or to retain their full ticket value for 24 months for a future flight for bookings made with travel agents,” a spokesperson from WestJet told Global News in an email.

“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.”

Read more: Calgary newlyweds question airline’s cancellation and compensation policy

However, Nilsson believes since no service was provided to them, and the decision was made by the airline as opposed to a government body imposing a travel restriction, a cash refund should be an option.

“From my perspective, it’s a demand thing that was within their control and so there should be no reason why they can’t just refund the money back to our credit card so we can book with who we need to,” said Nilsson.

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He admits he was aware a cash refund may not be provided before booking the flights, but was still caught off guard.

“This wasn’t a cancellation that I anticipated,” he admits.

“I was thinking more of a cancellation [from] a travel advisory, [or] mechanical breakdown or something like that.”

The family was able to book similar flights through Air Canada, and has filed a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency.

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