Transportation watchdog investigating WestJet after customer complaint

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WestJet signage is pictured at Vancouver’s international airport in Richmond, B.C. on Feb. 5, 2019. BEN NELMS/REUTERS

Canada’s transportation watchdog is launching an inquiry into how WestJet Airlines Ltd. handles its passengers during schedule changes after an incident last month saw travellers bumped without compensation.

The Canadian Transportation Agency says the probe into WestJet’s tariff – its contract with customers – follows a complaint after a Canadian couple en route to Italy were bumped from their flight out of Edmonton.

According to media reports, WestJet told the pair they were not entitled to compensation because the incident amounted to a “flight delay” rather than a “denial of boarding.”

Under Canada’s passenger bill of rights – partly implemented on July 15, a week before the flight – airlines have no obligation to pay customers for delays or cancellations considered out of its control. Delays within its control may not require compensation until Dec. 15, when the second phase of regulations comes into force.

Passenger-rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says the incident underscores loopholes in the new rights regime – maybe more so than WestJet’s tariff – adding that it is unfortunate it took a media report to prompt the inquiry.

The agency says it has directed WestJet to provide information and will decide on next steps after it is received.