N.B. family being denied vacation refund from WestJet after COVID cancellation

From Global News – link to source story

By Shelley Steeves, Global News, June 30, 2021

Roger and Michael Doucette say they want a refund from WestJet vacations, after their 2020 trip was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Roger and Michael Doucette say they want a refund from WestJet vacations, after their 2020 trip was cancelled due to the pandemic. Shelley Steeves/Global News

A New Brunswick father and son say they are out more than $7,000 for a trip they were never able to take due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the airline is refusing to provide a refund for a vacation that it cancelled.

Michael Doucette of Miramichi, N.B. says when he booked a tropical vacation to the Dominican Republic in February 2020 with WestJet Vacations for him and his father, Roger Doucette, who lives in Moncton, it was meant to be for stress relief.

“The whole point of us getting it was to be able to sort of recharge our batteries, after a particularly rough year,” Michael said.

In less than a year, Roger had lost both his mother and his wife. He thought a getaway might be a great way to help manage his grief.

“To be together and have a chance to try and digest some of this stuff,” Roger said.

But Michael says the experience has caused his father a great deal more anxiety.

In March 2020, Michael says they were informed by their travel agent that WestJet had cancelled their April vacation plans due to the pandemic.

“They suspended all flights and vacations, including ours,” he said.

The family was issued a travel voucher for just over $7,100.

But more than a year later, Michael says that voucher is not useful since his father is no longer medically fit to travel.

With WestJet indicating on its website that it is now offering refunds to some clients whose flights were cancelled due to the pandemic, Michael says they looked into getting his father’s money back for the trip.

“They said nope, if they are not happy then they can file a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency,” said Michael.

He says their travel agent was told they did not qualify for a refund because they had cancelled their own trip outside of a required 45-day window, which he says is completely false and that he has the documentation issued by the company to the agent to prove it.

He is hoping it is just a clerical error that will be cleared up soon.

But Gabor Lukacs, who is the president of Air Passenger Rights, says that the company’s refusal to provide a refund paints the entire air travel industry in a negative light.

“It is not simply a matter that consumers want their money back. It is a question that if you don’t refund people, you will not get customers,” said Gabor.

He says the family should be demanding a refund under Alberta’s statutory chargeback consumer protections laws or ask their bank to reverse the charges for services not provided.

“It feels as though they put the whole burden on us,” said Roger.

Global News reached out to WestJet on Monday, but the company has yet to respond to our questions about the family’s refund.

“What is so frustrating is that it is a Canadian company,” said Michael, who says his father cannot afford to take on the loss.

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