Irony, thy name is Air Canada. After a smooth move by WestJet concerning refunds, Air Canada took to Twitter to act like petulant child.
The Refund Problem In Canada Implicated Both Air Canada + WestJet
In terms of being good corporate citizens, Canadian airlines have failed the test during the pandemic. While airlines in the United States and across Europe began processing refunds after some initial resistance, Canada was in another league.
As Live and Let’s Fly noted in July, Air Canada insisted it had a legal right to deny refunds. It argued that Canadian regulators had no right to overrule its contract of carriage, which held that the carrier was not obligated to issue refunds for flights they cancelled if the passenger purchased non-refundable tickets and the cancellation was due to reasons beyond Air Canada’s control.
That’s right, folks. Air Canada reasoned that COVID-19 was beyond its control so it wasn’t its fault flights were cancelled. Thus, it had no obligation to refund non-refundable tickets.
Of course it wasn’t COVID-19 that forced Air Canada to cancel flights, but Air Canada determining it made no economic sense to run flights with load factors less than 10%.
But Air Canada continued to steadfastly deny refunds and WestJet was just as bad, copying its mischievous big brother in the duopoly of the Canadian aviation market.
> Read More: Air Canada Fights To Keep Your Money
WestJet Now Promises Refunds
In a welcome change of pace, WestJet now intends to being processing refunds on non-refundable tickets. A blog post from CEO Edward Sims titled “It’s About Time” spells out this new promise:
We understand completely that the title of this blog post is what most Canadians are feeling right now. You’re looking for a refund and we get it. Up until this point, quite plainly, the financial position of airlines around the world has been precarious. Since March, we have done everything we can to reduce costs and streamline our operations as best we could in the face of a 95 per cent drop in demand. We went 72 days in a row where cancellations outstripped bookings, something that has not happened – ever – in our almost 25-year history.
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. These are devastating statistics, ones I never thought I would see in my 35-year career in this industry.
It has been incredibly disheartening for anyone working here at one of Canada’s most beloved brands not to be able to demonstrate that we have our guests at the heart of every decision. Love us or hate us right now, we are doing everything we can to make sure we’re around tomorrow, and next year, for you hopefully to, love us once more.
Through the efforts of thousands of WestJetters, we are confident that we can now begin providing refunds proactively. We are the first national airline in Canada to do so.
My only commentary: better late than never.
Air Canada Pouts Like A Child
You would think a policy change like this would be cause for celebration and perhaps move competitors to match. But no, Air Canada instead attacked WestJet, taking issue with the announcement and noting that it has been processing refunds on refundable tickets for months.
But WestJet kindy noted that it would begin refunding non-refundable tickets.
Let’s clear the air. We’re offering refunds for guests if we cancelled their flight. Even the lowest cost tickets will be refunded to original form of payment if WestJet caused the cancellation.
— WestJet (@WestJet) October 22, 2020
Crickets from Air Canada since then. This is a step Air Canada has steadfastly refused to make before customers, legal tribunals, and Canadian authorities.
Air Canada: not a good look. Your tweet is called a non sequitur.
WestJet: congratulations. Air Canada: now it is your chance to do the right thing as well. I’ve got readers and clients who will never considering buying a revenue ticket on Air Canada again after what happened. Is that the reputation you wish to maintain? Do the right thing, please. Sometimes it is too late to correct a mistake, but not now. Not yet.