WestJet and Air Canada engaged in a social media spat on Wednesday, as the airlines bickered over flight refunds.
WestJet announced on Wednesday that it would provide refunds for customers whose flights on its mainline, or low-cost carrier Swoop, were cancelled by the airline as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline said the decision made it the “first national carrier in Canada to voluntarily provide refunds to original forms of payment”, a statement Air Canada disputes.
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.
— Air Canada (@AirCanada) October 21, 2020
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
“Misleading statement!” Air Canada said on Twitter on Wednesday.
“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.”
WestJet responded to Air Canada’s tweet on Twitter shortly after.
“Let’s clear the air,” WestJet said. “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’s new refund policy will see the airline begin contacting eligible customers on Nov. 2, starting with flights that were cancelled at the start of the pandemic. The airline expects it will take between six and nine months to go through the requests.
WestJet said it was in “a position to begin providing refunds proactively” as a result of the deep employment cuts it made and the parking of a majority of its fleet.
A spokesperson for Air Canada would not comment about WestJet’s policy, but added that the airline has returned approximately $1.2 billion in refunds to eligible customers and introduced “new convenient, more flexible options, for all customers with non-refundable tickets whose travel was affected by COVID-19.”
WestJet’s refund change comes days after opposition parties demanded the federal government ensure passengers receive refunds as a condition of any airline bailouts. Canadian airlines have seen their revenues crater because of a collapse in global travel, with passenger numbers in Canada down 90 per cent year over year in July and little improvement since.
WestJet announced last week that it would suspend operations to four cities and significantly reduce service to two other cities in Atlantic Canada.
With files from the Canadian Press
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.