A Moncton, N.B.-based scout group claims they have been left holding the bill for thousands in reimbursements after a turbulent trip with WestJet.
Members of the Moncton 1st BPSA group flew to the United Kingdom over the summer to attend a camporee – a trip they had been planning for more than three years.
“Surprisingly, we had kids in our group who had never ever been away from home,” said Group Scoutmaster Jeff Melvin.
However, the day before their return to Canada, WestJet cancelled the flight, which left Melvin and the 13 others stranded on the other side of the world.
“We pleasantly were surprised at how simple it was going to be that everything was reassured, that things we’re going to be covered as far as hotels, and our food was going to be covered,” Melvin said in an interview with Global News on Tuesday.
WestJet covered the costs of the hotel upfront but insisted the scouts keep receipts for other expenses that could be reimbursed in an expedited process.
By the time the troop returned home, almost $3,000 had been accumulated in expenses, which included a chartered bus after their new flight ended in Halifax instead of Moncton.
Melvin said he submitted all the documentation soon after the troops return from the U.K., but nearly three months later, the Scoutmaster hasn’t received a cent.
“Three grand doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but when it’s a non-profit and when it’s coming out of families’ pockets, it’s actually quite a big chunk of change.”
So far, Melvin said he has tried his best to keep the issue low-key and away from Scouts and parents, but that may have to change following legal advice.
“I wasn’t originally considering (legal advice), but since it’s voluntarily been given to us … we’re not going to leave any rock unturned at this point,” Melvin said, adding he’s determined to receive the funds.
Dr. Gábor Lukács, the president of Air Passenger Rights, told Global News passengers are often unaware of their rights and intimidated by the court process.
When informed about the experience endured by the Moncton 1st BPSA, he said the U.K. rules should apply, which include coverage of expenses and additional funds.
“If they were to make a claim under the air passenger protection regulations for lump sum compensation, it could be thirty days,” Lukács said in a phone interview.
“The more important point is as a passenger, you set a deadline for the airline, you tell them, ‘I tell you to pay me in so many days, or I will take you to small claims court’”
Breakdown in communication
According to Melvin, it feels as though there is an “internal breakdown” within the airline company. Discussions with a WestJet group lead have been inconclusive, he said.
Global News reached out to the airline on Tuesday for comment.
“Upon review by our guest support team, it appears that an expense form associated for this PNR has not been filled out,” WestJet spokesperson Denise Kenny said in an email.
Kenny added she would continue to look into the matter.
However, Melvin reiterated all of the documentation had been given to the group lead months ago.
“If there was an expense form, I would have filled it out, trust me,” Melvin remarked.