The airline said on Oct. 21 that it will start to contact eligible travellers to offer refunds via email on Nov. 2. WestJet said eligible travellers include returning Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or foreign nationals currently permitted entry into Canada.
The company will offer refunds in the original form of payment. Refunds are also offered for basic fare tickets.
WestJet said the refund process is estimated to take six to nine months due to “administrative backlogs.” Customers are asked to wait until they are contacted, so as not to overload the contact centre.
President and CEO Ed Sims said airlines around the world has been heavily struck financially by the pandemic, and WestJet is doing what it can to reduce costs in its operations after flight demands took a 95 percent freefall.
“We went 72 days in a row where cancellations outstripped bookings, something that has not happened—ever—in our almost 25-year history,” Sims said in a press release.
“Thankfully, we are seeing bookings higher than cancellations now but still at a level that sees more than 140 of the 181 aircraft in our fleet parked and more than 4,000 WestJetters permanently laid off.”
Sims said the company is the first national airline in Canada to offer refunds proactively, but that was refuted by Air Canada on Twitter.
“Misleading statement! WestJet is just now catching up to our policy to refund refundable fares. We have already refunded over $1.2 Billion in refundable fares to date,” the tweet said.
Air Canada has reimbursed refundable tickets and has offered vouchers for the non-refundable tickets, according to CBC News.
However, Air Canada has received 1,705 complaints over refunds, the highest among non-U.S. airlines, according to the U.S. Air Travel Consumer Report released in August. WestJet had received 346 refund complaints.