WestJet’s COVID refunds—can you get your money back?
With the cancellation of WestJet flights during the COVID outbreak, the airline is now giving cash refunds. Do you qualify?
With the cancellation of WestJet flights during the COVID outbreak, the airline is now giving cash refunds. Do you qualify?
In a somewhat surprising move on October 21, 2020, WestJet announced it will be issuing refunds to the original form of payment to travellers who had their flights cancelled due to COVID-19.
You would think this would have been an obvious move back in March 2020, but airlines are notorious for holding onto your cash for as long as possible. Until the announcement was made, WestJet, and most airlines simply provide travel credits/vouchers.
Before you jump on the phone and demand your money back, it’s best to understand what’s going on and why this decision was finally made.
To be clear, the refunds are available to travellers who had WestJet or Swoop flights cancelled on them due to COVID-19. If you cancelled a flight on your own and accepted the travel bank credit, you would not be eligible for the cash refund.
WestJet will contact those people it deems eligible for refunds as of November 2, 2020, but it is taking a phased approach, starting with flights cancelled in March and will continue from there. WestJet expects the process to take six to nine months to fully complete.
For context, my WestJet flight to Hawaii was cancelled in May and I didn’t get notice until October that I could see a refund applied to my credit card. Waiting five months to get $3,500 might be a lot of money for many people.
You need to wait for an email from WestJet before your refund is processed. Calling WestJet now will not do anything, so be patient and monitor your inbox.
Flights booked via a travel agency or a website would also be eligible for refunds, but you’d have to contact where you purchased your tickets directly. (Also, five things your airline isn’t telling you.)
In Canada, there are limited rules when it comes to passenger rights. Airlines were not obligated to give cash refunds as long as customers are offered a travel voucher worth an equal amount of what was paid. (Find out more about passenger rights here.)
The reality is that airlines don’t have a vault-load of cash. It’s one of the few industries that depend on future sales to float current operating expenses. When ticket sales drop, cash flow becomes an issue. A worldwide pandemic that significantly reduces air travel can be catastrophic to the travel industry and airline businesses.
South African Airways, Cathay Dragon and Avianca Airlines have declared bankruptcy or have ceased operations, so you can see why issuing travel vouchers is more beneficial to airlines compared to refunds.
Initially, WestJet tried to keep customers happy by extending their travel credit expiry date to two years, up from one. While this was a decent offer, it’s safe to say that most people would prefer cash.
In a press release, Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO said “We have heard loud and clear from the travelling public that in this COVID world they are looking for reassurance on two fronts: the safest possible travel environment; and refunds.”
It may have taken seven months for the response, but WestJet is the first national carrier in Canada to voluntarily provide refunds to the original form of payment on all fare classes.
Shortly after the announcement was made, Air Canada chimed in on Twitter and said the statement was misleading. Air Canada claimed it had already refunded over $1.2 Billion in refundable fares to date. Implying that WestJet wasn’t the first to issue refunds.
I can’t verify that number, but the last time I checked, Air Canada wasn’t giving refunds to everyone who had their flights cancelled. What I suspect Air Canada is saying is that it had given cash refunds when legally obligated.
For example, the United States, United Kingdom, and parts of the European Union have stricter passenger rights laws. If you were flying to one of those destinations and your flight was cancelled by the airline, local rules state that airlines have to provide a refund. After being pressured by the local governments, Air Canada and WestJet have now been following those laws.
It’s also worth noting that Air Canada’s comfort and business flexible fares are fully refundable by default. I imagine Air Canada isn’t wrong when it says it already refunded that money, but it doesn’t apply to all of its fares.
That’s where the difference is. WestJet is refunding all guests of COVID-cancelled flights, including those with the low-fare tickets.
Hopefully, Air Canada follows WestJet’s lead, but I wouldn’t hold my breath over it.
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Seems that WestJet vacations are not offering refund and are staying within the 2 yr extension – seems unfair that after the 2 year period (which is now 18 mos) we lose all our money. Who is to say if it is safe to travel to other countries by 18 months or if we will be covered for insurance.
My issue is with WJ companion vouchers and I’m not sure why NO ONE is actually talking about this issue. I’ve had a WJ Mastercard since inception and loved the benefits with the exception of the lack of trip cancellation insurance.
I cancelled our May 2020 flight two weeks before WJ did as it was obvious this pandemic wasn’t going to be over by our flight time and I had a car and hotel reservation to cancel as well. We got a credit which we were okay with as we only fly WJ and my February 2020 voucher was returned to my travel account.
I rebooked again shortly afterwards as we like to book ahead for planning purposes and my WJ travel voucher was going to expire in February 2021. There was also a guarantee that the flight could be cancelled for covid reasons at that future date so all seemed good.
Our flight is now booked for May 2021 and if we don’t want to fly with covid still active at that time, we can cancel but we assume we are going to lose this voucher that was issued February 2020 and will be expired. My travel companion also has a voucher dated May 2020 expiring May 2021 (not used so we have to book another trip by then) and we both will have another one in February and May 2021 that will expire in 2022.
Since these vouchers are paid for by your $119 annual fee, they should NOT expire at all or WJ should at least extend the dates for ALL VOUCHERS issued in 2020 and those issued in 2021 for at least 2 years until all this covid thing is under control and a vaccine is available.
Yesterday, in a phone conversation with a customer service rep from Air Transat, I was informed that Transat is still declining refunds, and continuing to offer only no time limit vouchers. Furthermore, she indicated that WJ and AC refunds were being limited to the “travel portion” only. So, if you had purchased a vacation package from them, your refund will not include the portion of the cost that was allocated to the accommodation. The arrogance of these people is beyond comprehension.
I would be interested to hear if any of your readers have had any success in securing a refund via a credit card “chargeback” or a small claims court action.
Air Canada refused to refund our 4 return flights from Toronto to Phoenix in May, 2020 when they cancelled the flight. I even tried the appeal process with no change.
What about Air Transat? Our six UK flights yvr to the uk for sep/oct were cancelled and initially we we offered 2 year vouchers. Subsequently they said they would give refunds since they no longer fly yvr to Europe. Still waiting. No date promise. If the sell out to Air Canada I assume we are sol.
It is true that AIR Canada has almost never accepted to refund non refundable or even partially refundable tickets. It is useless for them to mention they refunded refundable tickets: by definition, they have to !!!
However, at least in Quebec where consumers are more protected, it is possible to get refund through your credit cards. Actually both the Civil Code and the Law protecting consumers (provincial laws) say very clearly that they have to refund unrendered services. For this to enforce, you have to formally request your credit card bank a retro-billing, with your documents. They have 45 days to refund. In my case it worked for a AC partially refundable ticket. I got back all my money back through Master Card which dealt with Air Canada. I was also successful to get refund for non refundable air tickets within South America, with SKY airlines. Refund would not have been possible by the airline company directly.
Attempts to get refunds from AC directly were unsuccessful, and an irritating process: they make you wait weeks, never say yes or no, and it is impossible to speak to a manager or a director of their ”customer service”. Extremely time consuming process that I will not forget.
In the case MC or Visa would deny the refund, it is still possible to go to Quebec small claims court but it may be a long process, although likely to succeed. I wish the laws would be similar in other provincial juridictions. And perhaps that the Federal Transportation Office implement a law to enforce all refunds, not credits, when services cannot be rendered. Every one can eventually write his/her MP to demand this fair and just rule, as is the case in many developped countries. Consumers should not be forced to loan money for free to a corporation, with a risk of not being refunded ever.
I believe that the date of the refund offer just happens to be the same date that courts will begin allowing class action lawsuits against airlines for not refunding money for cancelled flights.
Air Canada is right! They gave me a refund months ago after initially offering only a voucher!
I’m just glad Westjet is finally doing the decent and Legal thing, especially since CoVid-19 was NOT the customers fault. Unfortunately, CoVid-19 is an act of the universe and not a purposeful event that a customer created in order to Cancel their flight!
If you read thru the many page’s of Westjet’s legal documents and their flight/ticket policies, it was actually against the law for them to Not give us our money back due to CoVid-19 being an unnatural event and out of the passengers control…
I am very upset with WestJet! when I heard about the refunds I was excited but I just recently found out that I don’t qualify because I cancelled my trip 2 weeks before my trip date but I didn’t have a choice! the government of Canada released the travel advisory on March 13th and I cancelled on the 16th!! I’m sure I am not the only one who was forced to make the same decision. When Trudeau announced the travel advisory and also stated that any Canadians outside of Canada needed to come back as soon as possible, I was not going to risk the health of my family and also when the government is saying not to leave the country I think that says something!!!! this refund is a joke and completely unfair to those who had no choice but to cancel their trips because of covid 19. They have given me a credit that expires April of 2022 but honestly with the way this pandemic is going, I will not be flying anywhere until I know it is 100% safe to do so. I think WestJet needs to do the right thing and refund everyone who was affected by Covid 19 regardless if the client cancelled or they cancelled the flights.
WHEN is the Canadian Government going to step in and make these airlines refund our money? Heck, the feds have ‘bailed out’ that poorly managed Quebec company Bombardier so many times it’s not even funny. The least they can do is bail out the airlines so they can refund everyone’s cash.
Why do we have to wait 7-10 days before the departure to have Westjet or Air Canada cancel the flight? If we’re in an area that has been locked down by the provincial health officer, then come’on! Enough of the games!
I don’t want a voucher that expires! I want my cash back!
I’m going to fill out their refund request form but not going to hold my breath.
I had international flights booked in august and instead of cancelling them, Westjet just moved their dates to basically make our vacation go from 7 days down to 1.5 days. So they effectively forced us to cancel since it’d make no sense to take their rescheduled flights.
I suspect they will say we cancelled on our own volition and deny refunds.
Is it true that westjet isn’t refunding vacation packages ? On the website it’s say they are or maybe I’m misunderstanding what they wrote? I did not cancel my flight westjet did and I booked through redtag. No one can tell me anything except send me the same email over and over again that state’s I can only get a refund if it was cancelled 45 days prior to departure. My flight was suppose to leave April 21. This can’t be legal.
Time for WestJet to start offering some proper customer service. I had a domestic flight booked for April 2020 with Air Canada $ 2,000. for coach travel and had to cancel because of lock-down and travel advisory warnings. This was not a case of Air Canada canceling a flight. It was my decision not to risk travel.
Unlike WestJet, I was issued a voucher (like a gift card) that I can use whenever & wherever with no expiry date. I know that they still have my money, but I don’t feel that I’m subjected to nimerous and harsh conditions. This I considered proper customer service. When will WestJet follow suit?
How do you contact someone from West jet about a refund for a flight cancelled in March because of covid .
I was excited to hear we would be getting a refund instead of credits. We have been waiting but found out we don’t qualify because we booked a holiday package and they are only giving refunds for flights. I hope it still comes. It feels now like that announcement that they were giving refunds was just a lie.
I am mad with West jet because I cancelled my own flight to Moncton in March 2020 not thinking that West Jet would cancelled it. Now my money is in a travel bank that I can not use anyway because there is no travel to New Brunswick. I could of used that money right now for Christmas.
Hi, I am senior retired 75 years old, my 2-way return ticket to Santa Clara-Cuba canceled by WestJet, and offering to save my money for 24 months & advised that I am able to benefit from that in the future!
Since I am in very poor health conditions & I have no hope to be alive until next year due to my sickness, so what should I do with this corruptor, who grab the people money and using the money for their operations? I am wondering why the Canadian authorities not stopping such corruptions, and why allowing them to operate? Even we know the majority of the shareholders are a ring of VIP and has too many influences, and when it’s come to law, regular passenger unable to do anything, unfortunately.
I hereby request the Canadian authorities, RCMP, and the Ministery of the Transporation to take acttion accordingly, thanks.
I’m in the same boat as many who have commented. I had a flight booked for 4 people for April 2020. I cancelled it once the government announced travel was restricted. WestJet is refusing to refund me because I cancelled. Wasn’t that the RIGHT thing to do? We were in a pandemic and told by our government to stay home! I THOUGHT that the sooner I cancelled the better for processing. I was supposed to wait it out?? Until when?? No! You take action and the proper steps to cancel and start a refund process. That’s the responsible thing to do. I waited patiently for a refund process and received my declined refund email today. I called westjet and was still told that I would not receive a refund. My flight was in the heart of covid and the major restrictions first implemented – how can you deny that westjet!!? I literally could not go even if I wanted to! I believe they are hanging on to any little technicality they can to avoid payouts and it is disgusting customer service! I encourage all to file a complaint with the Canadian travel agency! I did today. A travel credit would be awesome IF it was ok to travel. We are still in a pandemic – we still have national and provincial restrictions. I still have employment restrictions around travel. We still have restrictions around health care if we travel. A travel credit right now is pointless! Give your customers their money back and they will HAPPILY RE-BOOK once they can!
I filled out the form in October and I am still waiting. I will be really annoyed if they don’t refund the money. Yes I cancelled the trip but it was after the federal government put the travel advisory in place and a number of things were shutting down. I had to cancel because I had to cancel other bookings that I had in place. Also, my relatives where I was staying are older and I did not want to risk their health. And my flight would have been cancelled at any rate. Besides, I paid extra for cancellation insurance and told them at the time of cancellation I wanted my money refunded. I didn’t accept the travel credit, it was given to me despite my objections.
I previously commented on WJ’s companion vouchers which they extended for 4 months which still makes it useless as I will not be booking by June 2021. I cancelled two flights booked for 2020. One was for a medical issue where we paid fees and got a travel credit and I also cancelled our covid affected flights 3 days before WJ did so only got another travel bank credit. I was okay with this because usually travel a couple of times a year. BUT today I checked my account and noticed that these travel bank credits EXPIRE!! What? This is MY money and WJ gets to keep it if I don’t use part of it by April 22?? I’m not travelling until all these covid-19 testing requirements are gone and everyone is vaccinated. So I’ve got $1800 sitting there that they can keep if I don’t book and I will lose if they go bankrupt. Time to seek out the Government agency that handles this stuff.
My wife are in the same predicament as Allison, we knew that things were going arwray with our trip and Covid 19, so to beat the panic we cancelled the trip a couple of weeks before the Canadian government inforced the no travel clause. At the time we were given WestJet dollars instead and the 2 year limit. We want our money back into our account. We have no idea if they are going to extend the 2 year limit or not. I’m afraid we will loose on both ends. Is there a class action lawsuit against WestJet that we don’t know about.
Thank you for the question and we are sorry to hear about your travel struggles. Due to the large volume of comments we receive, we regret that we are unable to respond directly to each one. We invite you to email your question to [email protected], where it will be considered for a future response by one of our expert columnists. For personal advice, we suggest consulting with your financial institution or a qualified advisor.
I booked a trip to Disneyland California for Christmas 2020 and when it was clear that we would not be able to go I cancelled the trip that I paid for eight full tickets and 2 infants. Because I used my brains and new we wouldn’t be going and cancelled they won’t refund me because they had not cancelled first. To me this is discrimination and that money could have been well used by me during this pandemic instead of west jet sitting on it. This was a family holiday that who knows when we can go. Refund money or make the tickets so they don’t expire. When I called and spoke with a west jet employee she was rude and wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say.
My daughter Booked with Air Canada and she cancelled her FLIGHTS and Air Canada gave her ALL her monies back. West Jet refuses to give back our money because we cancelled the flights During COVID. What a JOKE. Also how long do we Have before they take All the flight credits completely? Is that how they plan on trying to compensate some of their loss by only giving us so much time to use the credits before they take them?? Again What a joke !!!!!
How do I go about rebooking a flight that was cancelled due to virus I was told I had 2 years Flight was booked for April 2020
I’am disgusted in the way WestJet has treated me!! Booked trip and can’t seem to talk with any live agent except for 345am What the heck WestJet!! Give me back MY money!!!!
Filled in the request for refund 3 times, it seems it falls in the black hole, no phone request are answered, 6 hr wait, on messenger it’s a robot called Julie, West jet is not taking calls directly regarding refunds. WHAT IS gOING ON, ?????they took my money via phone when I booked the flights on my Mastercard. Why can’t I get a refund? They ignore calls, hang up, robot, no phone number. The Ceo went on cbc and said all refunds will be answered well mine has not! I want my 1700$, its Allot of money! MY MP ignored all Twitter, my government bailed them out, no refunds to customers
Still waiting for a refund 18 months later. Filled out the refund request form many weeks ago and I have not received any response. They have 7000$ dollars of my money and I am destitute now because of the pandemic.
I’ve been waiting for one year now for my refund and still not heard anything from WestJet.
My flight was scheduled for end of April 2020
It’s so fustrating
I applied for my refund many months ago. I received an email tonight from WestJet inviting me to phone the WestJet 1-888 number, provide my credit card number and WestJet rewards number and get my refund. HOWEVER, there is no menu option for this and NO ONE answers the phone anyway! What’s worse is that they have zeroed out my Travel Bank, so it looks like I don’t even have a travel credit anymore! It’s obvious WestJet has no intention of paying back any money to its customers.
WestJet has lost ALL credibility.
In our case we cancelled our flights through to Halifax and back from Boston when it became obvious that Holland America was going to cancel our late summer cruise. Got a $2300 credit from WestJet put into our TravelBank. Now things are opening up we thought about using them except we cannot get travel insurance now because of an unstable medical condition. Left high and dry. Thanks WestJet! This what happens when a hedge fund (Onex) runs an airline!
I would like the refund of my first class ticket November 23 ,2021
Well I’m furious with Westjet! I booked a vacation package for 9 people (family) they have close to $25,000 in their pockets. I can’t get thru to anyone who could answer some questions and have a listen to us! I booked January 2020to fly out March 18, 2020. We kept putting off waiting for the airlines to cancel as we were afraid we’d lose our money. So 5 days before the flight was to leave March 13th we made a scary decision to cancel .. either that nite or next day they cancelled all flights! They won’t give us our money. We hv not been able to fly since… due to CoVid and health issues. We lost our son prior to our booking so we decided to take the grandkids etc on a vacation. One we had all planned. I just don’t understand WESTJET! Any suggestion for some help/guidance? We are raising his 2 children … twins and we are retired grandparents! This puts us in a horrible financial position!!! Please WESTJET…
WestJet is refusing to refund use our fair in cash.
Our original flight was cancelled at the start of COVID and WestJet “refunded” us as a credit (money bank). We used these funds to book a trip for this March break and the flight was cancelled by WestJet. As a result, we had to book another airline.
They refunded this trip to the money bank, but refuse to refund us in cash. The argument is that they refund to the original form of payment, however, the original trip cancelled due to COVID they refused to refund in cash.
Any suggestions on how to proceed?
I tried to fine out what was going on I got answers like they couldn’t fined my booking then next time after 4 or 5 hrs I was told she could not hear me. The last time I got through the girl found my fill but I was to late to get anything from Westjet she said my bank insurance may help after Westjet gets government handout.