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WestJet admits it was wrong to refuse customer refunds for rebooked flights



From CBC News – link to source story

Airline blames confusion caused by ramping up its business during the pandemic

Sophia Harris · CBC News · Jul 14, 2021

WestJet has updated its website to indicate that customers with major schedule changes are entitled to refunds if they want to cancel their flight. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

WestJet says it made an error when the airline rebooked thousands of customers on alternate flights and offered no refunds — only credit — to those who wanted to cancel their trip.

“We gave incorrect information or inconsistent information,” Richard Bartrem, WestJet’s vice-president of communications, said in an interview.

“[It’s] tremendously frustrating for the guests … and we are sorry for that.”

Bartrem said the Calgary-based airline is now taking steps to ensure that affected customers can collect a refund if they wish.

WestJet’s admission of error follows a CBC News investigation into complaints from customers who said they had been unjustly denied refunds for rebooked flights they didn’t want.

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) says that since June 1, it has received 72 complaints from WestJet customers involving the matter.

Last month, CBC interviewed five customers booked on WestJet flights set to depart in July. In mid-June, they each received an email from WestJet — or their travel agent — stating that they had been rebooked on a longer flight that now included a stopover and, in three cases, departed on a different day.

The email informed the customers that if they rejected the flight change, they could cancel their trip and receive a credit for a future flight.

Each customer said when they asked WestJet for a refund instead, they were flatly refused.

“They were very categorical,” said Seema Shirali of Markham, Ont. She had called the airline to cancel and request a refund for rebooked flights from Toronto to New York City that now included a stopover in Atlanta and a date change.

Seema Shirali of Markham, Ont., was upset after WestJet cancelled her direct flight from Toronto to New York City and offered only a credit when she requested a refund. (Submitted by Seema Shirali)

“[The WestJet employee] said, ‘You can go on the website, you can check the cancellation policy. If we make a schedule change, we will only give you a credit back,’” Shirali said.

In an email to WestJet, CBC News pointed out Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which mandate that airlines must offer refunds for flight cancellations within an airline’s control, as well as offer to rebook passengers on another airline if there’s no alternative flight leaving within nine hours of the original departure.

CBC also pointed out WestJet’s tariff or rule book, which promises refunds for major schedule changes.

Following the inquiry, WestJet changed its tune and said the five people interviewed would be offered refunds. 

Many more refused refunds

One week later, on July 6, WestJet told CBC News that thousands more customers it had recently rebooked on flights had been incorrectly informed they could currently only get credit if they cancelled their trip.

WestJet blamed the error on the fact that the airline was ramping up its service now that COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were easing.

“This was us bringing people back to work, training people back up,” Bartrem said. “It is a rapidly moving environment, and we didn’t have all those pieces [of information] updated the way they should otherwise have been.”

Richard Bartrem, WestJet’s vice-president of communications, has apologized to customers who were wrongly refused refunds for rebooked flights they didn’t want. (WestJet)

Bartrem said WestJet is now making amends.

On July 6, the airline updated its website to clarify that customers can collect a refund for a flight where WestJet changed the itinerary by more than 90 minutes or added one or more stopovers. 

The airline also said it’s developing an online tool that will soon allow affected customers to get a refund without having to first submit a request.

WestJet confirmed its tariff requires it to offer refunds for major schedule changes. The airline did not confirm if the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which lay out broader requirements for airlines, also apply in this situation. The CTA said that would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

‘We don’t always get it right’

WestJet customer Shirali said she believes the airline only changed its policy on refunds because CBC News covered the issue.

“I’m glad that they’re doing it, but they’re only doing it because of media pressure.”

WATCH | Customers frustrated after WestJet didn’t give refunds for cancelled flights:

10 days ago1:51Customers are frustrated that WestJet is offering only credits when the airline cancels or reschedules flights, despite the air passenger bill of rights requiring refunds for cancelled flights. 1:51

Shirali also said she suspects she’s a victim of a bait-and-switch, where an airline posts attractive fares and flights to draw customers and then switches the flights to less desirable ones — after customers have paid up.

“This seems to be a very — like a scamish kind of thing to do.”

WestJet denies the accusation, saying it had to consolidate flights due to miscalculating future customer demand during a time of changing COVID-19 travel rules and guidance.

“We’re trying to manage all of this planning more than three months in advance,” Bartrem said. “Obviously, we don’t always get it right.”

Another complaint

After WestJet declared if was offering refunds to affected customers, CBC News received a new complaint from a customer who said he had been denied one.

Darryl Holden and his fiancée, Sabrina Nash, had booked a honeymoon trip to Orlando, Fla., in August but decided to cancel after WestJet changed their itinerary. The couple’s rebooked flight from Victoria to Orlando now included an overnight stopover in Toronto, which meant they’d lose a day of their trip.

Darryl Holden of Victoria and his fiancée, Sabrina Nash, had booked a honeymoon trip to Orlando, Fla., but cancelled after WestJet changed their itinerary, cutting short their trip by a day. (Submitted by Darryl Holden)

But when Holden requested a refund instead of a credit from WestJet on July 9, the airline turned him down. In an email, WestJet stated that although it was now offering refunds, he and Nash wouldn’t get one because they had already accepted their rebooked flight. Holden insists they didn’t.

“I think it’s stonewalling,” said Holden, who lives in Victoria. “It seems like they’re doing everything in their power to keep us from getting a refund.”

WestJet told CBC News that Holden’s refund refusal was an error and that he and his fiancée would be issued one.

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American Airlines set to operate two new routes from Miami



United States carrier, American Airlines has announced that it plans to fly to a further two Caribbean destinations from Miami International Airport (MIA) later this year. The airline stated that from December it will serve Anguilla and Dominica in the Caribbean from December 8th and December 11th respectively.

The newly announced routes are part of a major expansion plan by American Airlines to further cement its presence in Miami as it faces growing competition from low-cost rivals such as Spirit and Southwest, which are also looking to connect to destinations in the Caribbean.

In a company statement, the Vice President of hub operations at Miami, Juan Carlos Liscano said “We have been strategically growing our route network to give customers more choices to new destinations, better meeting the demand for travel to Miami, the Caribbean and Latin America.”

According to a preliminary flight schedule, American Airlines plans to serve both destinations twice weekly with AA3579 departing on its outbound leg from Miami to Dominica at 11:00 and arriving at 15:21. It will then return to Miami International Airport departing Dominica at 16:24 and is scheduled to arrive at 18:55

In terms of services to Anguilla, American Airlines flight AA3780 is scheduled to depart Miami at 10:50 and arrive at 14:49 in the afternoon. It will then depart Anguilla at 15:40 before landing at Miami International Airport at around 17:53.

According to American Airlines, the Caribean is “American’s largest international gateway,” the airline added that it was proud to continue to strengthen its presence at Miami International Airport (MIA). Earlier this month, American Airlines stated that it plans to launch six domestic destinations from Miami.

In addition to these six domestic services, the North American carrier also plans to connect Miami with a further two new international destinations. The carrier plans to commence flights to San Andrés, a Colombian island in the Caribbean Sea from December 1st, while flights to Chetumal (CTM) a city on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula from December 4th.

The carrier said it expects that both of these services will be operated by its short-haul Embraer E175 aircraft. American Airlines Embraer E175 can carry a total of 76 passengers and is currently arranged in a 3-class configuration with 12 seats in first class, 20 extra-legroom seats and 44 economy seats.

According to a number of media reports, American Airlines, in addition to a few other airlines in the United States, are frantically looking to hire pilots in addition to airline staff in an effort to meet the surge in travel demand fuelled by steady vaccination rates as the country eases out of the pandemic.

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Breeze Airways trims back its schedule due to late arriving deliveries, no cities dropped



Breeze Airways has been busy launching its new routes. Delays have troubled the launch so far.
The airline issued this short statement:
As we work toward our goal of providing service that works for our Guests and the communities we serve, we sometimes have to make changes to our schedule. A lot of planning goes into these decisions and we recognize the inconvenience it causes for our Guests.
While some schedules have changed by a few minutes, others have changed to a different day of the week. Please review your updated itinerary in the My Trips tab.
If your current flight schedule works for your plans, no action is needed.
The airline is generally trimming the amount of days operated on its routes due to the late arrival of some aircraft.
The new airline was planning to operate 13 Embraer jets this summer.
More from local media:

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Eurowings Discover launches operations



New leisure carrier of the Lufthansa Group

Eurowings Discover (Frankfurt) received its AOC on June 16, 2021.

Today (July 24) the new airline commenced operations. The first flight flew from Frankfurt (below) to Mombasa and on to Zanzibar.

Lufthansa Group issued this statement and photos:

This evening (July 24), Lufthansa Group’s newest airline Eurowings Discover left its parking position at Frankfurt Airport, departing on its inaugural flight (4Y134). Operated by an Airbus A330-200, passengers will be traveling from Frankfurt to Mombasa and, after a stopover of about one hour, continue onward to Zanzibar.

Eurowings Discover is the only European airline currently offering direct flights to Mombasa. The captain on the inaugural flight is Wolfgang Raebiger, who is also Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Eurowings Discover.

The Lufthansa Group’s new leisure airline has been granted its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by the German Federal Aviation Authority on June 16 this year and will be commencing flight operations this summer as planned under the airline’s own flight code “4Y”.

High-quality product with many services included

For the first time ever, guests on board flight 4Y134 will have the opportunity to test the product and service of Eurowings Discover. The aircraft has a total of 270 seats, 22 of which are in Business Class (lie-flat seats). Over the next few months, all Eurowings Discover aircraft will gradually become equipped with up to 31 Premium Economy Class seats.

In all three classes, guests can look forward to a special, high-quality travel experience with all meals and non-alcoholic beverages included in the price. In Business Class, all beverages will be offered free of charge, while in the Premium Economy Class there will also be a complimentary selection of beer and wine. There is also a variety of Buy-on-Board offers from which travelers in Economy Class and Premium Economy Class can select additional snacks and alcoholic beverages.

Next to the culinary experience, Eurowings Discover also provides excellent entertainment onboard the flight to your vacation – completely free of charge in all classes. With their own screens, travelers can choose from over 50 movies, 80 TV programs, and numerous sound tracks. Another special feature on board Eurowings Discover: guests can quickly and easily connect to the Onboard-Cloud via their own device to receive an extended entertainment offer with a wide selection of magazines and over 50 cutting-edge games, gaming streams as well as an integrated gaming platform.

Further expansion of the flight schedule starting in August

In addition to the sunny destinations Mombasa and Zanzibar, Eurowings Discover will be flying to Punta Cana from August 9 and to Windhoek from August 10. On September 30, the airline will start operating from Frankfurt to Las Vegas and from October 1 to the dream island of Mauritius. Bridgetown (November 1), Cancún (November 1), Varadero (November 2) and Montego Bay (November 3) will also be added in the winter flight schedule.

The airline will also add attractive medium-haul routes to its portfolio starting in November 2021, with flights from Frankfurt to the Canary Islands of Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife, as well as to Hurghada and Marsa Alam in Egypt, and Marrakech in Morocco. From summer 2022 onwards, Eurowings Discover will also be operating short-, medium- and long-haul flights out of the Munich hub.

About Eurowings Discover

Eurowings Discover is the new leisure airline of the Lufthansa Group. Operating out of Frankfurt, this new carrier takes travelers to the world’s most beautiful short, medium and long haul destinations. The mission of Eurowings Discover is to tailor the travel experience to the guests’ individual needs and to make the flight a special experience. As part of the Lufthansa network, travelers can benefit from direct connections and seamless transfers to and from all German and European Lufthansa destinations, as well as an end-to-end booking process. With matched offers from SWISS and Edelweiss, the Lufthansa Group has successfully operated this combined business model at the Zurich hub for many years already. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the airline can draw on the expertise and experience of one of the world’s leading aviation companies.

Top Copyright Photo: Eurowings Discover Airbus A330-203 D-AXGB (msn 684) MUC (Arnd Wolf). Image: 954160.

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Air Canada anticipating recovery in demand as travel restrictions are eased



From CP24 – link to source story

Air Canada

The tail of an Air Canada aircraft is seen at a hangar at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ont., on February 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press | July 23, 2021

Air Canada is anticipating a recovery in demand in the coming months as travel restrictions are eased and leisure passengers look to get away after being grounded by COVID-19.

Although overall bookings remain below pre-pandemic levels, customer interest began to increase in June with the elimination of quarantines for fully vaccinated returning Canadians and the removal of other travel restrictions.

“We can now optimistically say that we are turning a corner, and we expect to soon see correlated financial improvements,” CEO Michael Rousseau said Friday during a conference call.

“Indications are that the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may now be behind us. Based on what we are seeing in other markets that are further along in reopening in Canada, we anticipate travel will resume at a quickening pace.”

Rousseau said bookings are steadily increasing for domestic, transborder and Atlantic markets as well as to sun destinations for the coming winter. Future bookings In some weeks of June were ahead of the same period in 2019.

“We expect the most recent announcements of the Government of Canada relaxing existing measures will further help strengthen the interest of our customers in flying again.”

Current demand is largely for leisure and visiting friends and family, but Air Canada expects to see a progressive return of corporate demand in September and October, added chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette.

That could be aided by the ability of Canadian passengers to rely on COVID tests taken in Canada for trips of less than 72 hours.

“We are encouraged by some of the commentary from our peers in the United States with regards to overall business travel recovery,” she told analysts.

Guillemette said that rebuilding its U.S. operations as the largest foreign carrier is key to its recovery. That will also expedite the recovery of international long-haul operations as it seeks to achieve or exceed its share of the U.S. long-haul global market.

The Atlantic business will recover quicker than the Pacific or Latin America because of high vaccination rates, strong cultural and business connections with Europe and strong leisure interest from Canadians.

“We are already observing healthy demand signals for Europe into 2022,” she added.

The Montreal-based company says it lost $1.17 billion or $3.31 per diluted share, compared with a loss of $1.75 billion or $6.44 per share a year earlier.

Adjusted profits were $1.08 billion or $3.03 per share.

Revenues during the three months ended June 30 surged 58.8 per cent to $837 million from $527 million in the second quarter of 2020. Passenger revenues more than doubled to $426 million from a year ago which marked the first full quarter to be impacted by the pandemic. Cargo revenues increased 33 per cent to a record $358 million.

Air Canada was expected to post $2.76 per share in adjusted profits on $848.2 million of revenues, according to financial data firm Refitinitv.

The country’s largest airline increased its seat capacity by 78 per cent compared to the same time last year, and was down 86 per cent from the second quarter of 2019. It plans to increase available seat miles in the third quarter so capacity will be 65 per cent below the same period in 2019.

In August, its domestic capacity is expected to be about two-thirds of what it was in 2019.

“The third-quarter outlook pointed to healthy demand recovery and a significant improvement in daily cash burn,” Walter Spracklin of RBC Dominion Securities wrote in a report.

Air Canada says it has refunded about $1 billion for non-refundable tickets and expects to pay an additional $200 million in the third quarter, which will be covered by the federal government’s $1.4 billion refund credit facility.

The airline says it has recalled about 2,900 employees in June and July as it restores service this summer to destinations, particularly in Canada and the U.S. More workers will be called back for the fall season.

Air Canada has retained about half of its workforce, including the vast majority of pilots who have remained current and ready to fly when conditions warrant.

While it works to rebuild operations, the airline said it is also preparing to meet the challenges from increased competition stemming from expansion plans for Porter Airlines and Flair Airlines. Porter plans to add jet service from several gateways, including Toronto’s Pearson airport, in the second half of next year, while Flair is adding aircraft and routes.

“We certainly welcome healthy competition. but suffice to say, we will be ready to deal with that situation,” Rousseau said of Porter.

He also said the failed purchased of Transat may have been beneficial long-term, but it would have been very difficult to integrate while also focusing on the post-COVID recovery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.

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