WestJet compensates Edmonton couple $1,800 under new air passenger rights

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The tail of a WestJet plane is seen before the airline’s annual meeting in Calgary, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Mariam Matti, CTVNews.ca Staff with a report from CTV News’ Molly Thomas Published Sunday, September 22, 2019

An Edmonton couple who missed the first day of their honeymoon due to a WestJet flight change finally received compensation from the airline.

An Edmonton couple were forced to file a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) under the passenger bill of rights after they were denied boarding on a WestJet flight to their honeymoon destination in July.

Chelsea Williamson said she and her husband were checked in to their flight and at the gate when WestJet informed the couple an aircraft change would mean they could not get on their original flight to Italy. They were placed on another flight hours later and missed the first day of their honeymoon.

After several weeks of back and forth with the airline, the newlyweds were offered WestJet travel vouchers.

Under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, passengers who are denied boarding are entitled to $900 for a delay less than six hours.

Williamson ended up filling an official complaint with the CTA.

“If the airlines weren’t following the rules with us, does that mean they aren’t following the rules with other people?” she told CTV News Edmonton.

WestJet offered the couple $900 each in compensation along with an apology.

“Guest care is central to our brand and fundamental to our business and following an internal investigation, we recognized that we failed to meet our obligations to these guests,” the company said in a statement. WestJet added that a tight timeline to implement the new regulations has been a challenge.

“By WestJet coming forward and saying we were denied boarding, it may set some precedent,” Williamson said.

On Aug. 16, the CTA launched an inquiry to “examine whether the terms of WestJet’s dealing with schedule changes and irregularities are just and reasonable, taking into account the requirement for airlines to respect the minimum obligations towards passengers set out in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations,” according to their website.

The agency has received 1,770 complaints in a two-month period, including passengers who have been denied boarding or had luggage problems. In 2018, the CTA received about 1,000 complaints in the same time period.

Gabor Lukacs, air passenger rights advocate, warns that not every passenger will receive compensation for their complaint.

“In no way should passengers conclude that this means the new rules are working. They are not,” he told CTV News. “This case is a victory of the court of public opinion and of public pressure.”