July 12th, 2024

Customers frustrated over treatment by WestJet during mechanics strike

By The Canadian Press on July 5, 2024.

Passengers are seen in the WestJet check-in area at Pearson International Airport, in Toronto on June 29, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Travellers are expressing frustration over how WestJet handled them after the airline cancelled roughly 1,200 flights over the past week due to a strike by plane mechanics.

Social media posts from some of the roughly 150,000 affected passengers express exasperation over hours spent on hold with customer service, the carrier’s failure to rebook them on other airlines and flight cancellation notices that informed them, “fees may apply.”

WestJet has repeatedly apologized to customers, and says it offered them a refund if they weren’t able to be rebooked within 48 hours, in accordance with the country’s passenger rights charter.

It also says those rules require no compensation for hotels and meals for travel disruptions that are outside of the carrier’s control, such as a strike.

However, federal regulations require airlines to book travellers on “the next available flight” from any airline, including competitors, after 48 hours if they turn down the refund – a choice customers say the airline did not give them.

Passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says passengers are entitled to reimbursement for flights they booked with a rival as well as for hotel, food and other costs if the trip was international, citing the Montreal Convention, a multilateral treaty on compensation for air travellers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2024.

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