WestJet Horror: Passenger faces nightmare experience when airline forces passenger to re-purchase ticket, after cancelling without permission.

It was supposed to be a happy occasion. In the summer of 2021, WC bought a ticket through a Credit Card Rewards Program (BMO Rewards) to go to Fort Myers Florida, in order to attend her daughter’s wedding in November of that same year. The total cost — $404.00 round trip — and needless to say, she was excited to go.

Fast forward to a few months later — two (2) weeks before the wedding to be exact — and tragedy struck the family… a member of the immediate family had lost their battle with cancer. So now, in addition to wedding preparations, the family also had to prepare for a funeral.

Naturally, WC called the airline and asked to modify her initial departing ticket so that she could leave one (1) week earlier in order to attend the funeral. She first tried to do this through the Rewards’ Call Center. This is where the nightmare began.

Upon calling the BMO Rewards Call Centre to make changes to the ticket, WC was immediately told that she would have to be placed on hold in order to connect to Priceline, so that they could advise on those modifications. Before WC could even connect with Priceline, the call disconnected a total of seven (7) times — it’s the worst connection issues WC had ever faced. The call would literally drop every time she was placed on hold for more than ten minutes… and WC called from a landline, so the connectivity issues were not from her end, but Priceline and BMO Rewards.

After two days of calling back and forth and countless hours of being placed on hold, WC finally got someone from Priceline, and the customer service agent advised that in order to make the change to the ticket, it would cost over $670 CAD for a one way ticket. This was not only more than the cost of every other airline who was offering a one-way trip for that date/time, it frankly was more than the entire round-trip ticket that was originally purchased.

WC, like any other normal person, advised the agent it was cheaper to get the one-way ticket from another airline and after being asking for and being declined by WestJet to price-match the other airlines, WC decided not to buy the intentionally overpriced ticket and instead purchased another (one-way) ticket via Air Canada at the cost of $392 CAD.

At no time during the call did the agent advise WC that she would lose the ability to return using the ticket she’d originally purchased if she ‘no-showed’ for her initial trip. In fact, WC made it clear on the call that she would be using her return ticket to come back to Toronto.

Fast forward now — after the funeral and after the wedding — it’s November 21, 2021 and WC is at the WestJet kiosk in Fort Myers Florida checking in. After handing the teller her passport, proof of vaccination and proof of negative COVID-19 PCR test, she was advised by the teller that she they couldn’t find her in the system as having a seat for the flight.

Now wait, to WC that didn’t make any sense whatsoever. She never called anyone to cancel her ticket, so she pushed back and said this must’ve been a mistake. WC showed her proof of purchase as well as the ticket information. After some confusion on the part of the teller, after involving the manager and 25 minutes of back and forth later, WC was advised that although the ticket was purchased, the airline had cancelled her return trip — without a refund and without her permission — because she had ‘no-showed’ on her departure flight.

Yes, the absurdity shocked WC as much as it shocked me as I wrote this article. WestJet cancelled her entire trip that was fully paid for, because she no-showed for one portion of her flight and was told that she was not going to be able to get on, even though she bought and paid for the seat.

WC was then told that she had the option of re-purchasing her seat at a cost of $425 USD and that because they could not do anything on their end regarding ticketing, she would have to call WestJet general customer service to see about re-purchasing or what they could do about the cancelled ticket.

At 66 years old, WC has done a lot of travelling, and as such, this is not her first rodeo. But never in her life has she ever dealt with such a horrible customer service experience. Moreover, WC had never had a flight cancelled on her because the airline felt like doing so… and what’s mind blowing in this case is that, WC did not receive a direct email from WestJet about the ticket being cancelled. Instead, she received an email from Priceline saying that the ticket was modified at the airline’s request. WC had gone to the airport and had no idea what was going to happen that day. She went in blind.

Completely frustrated, exhausted and scared that she was not going to be able to get home, WC called the number given to her by WestJet only to find out that she had been placed on hold, and after twenty (20) minutes of being on hold, she realized she would be stuck at this airport if she did not re-purchase another ticket.

Out of spite, WC decided if she had to purchase any ticket, it wouldn’t be with WestJet, so she purchased a Delta ticket at a cost of $498 USD online in a matter of 5 minutes, as she could not reach WestJet on the phone. When WC went to the Delta Kiosk to finally check-in, for the second time that day, she was advised that they had a partnership with WestJet regarding flights out of Fort Myers, and that she would be placed on the same exact flight that she was denied boarding on earlier by WestJet, as they had a direct flight to Toronto and it would be the fastest way home.

There is so much wrong in this situation on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin.

Firstly, in total, a trip that originally cost $404.0 CAD ended up costing WC and additional $1,000.00 CAD when exchange rates are factored in to go to Florida for a wedding and a funeral.

Secondly, this entire experience felt like clear and intentional extortion by WestJet and it is clear to see that this airline is taking advantage of passengers who have to deal with unfortunate circumstances, all based on some horrible policy that WestJet has placed in their ‘fine print’, which allow the carrier to cancel your entire ticket should a passenger, regardless of circumstances (i.e., death in the immediate family, customs issues, etc.) miss one portion of the flight.

Frankly, it is the first time myself that I have ever heard of this kind of policy by any airline and upon review of the facts, this policy is implemented by WestJet intentionally, so as to make money on people dealing with unexpected circumstances. As I write this blog post, very important questions come to mind regarding passengers and their rights.

For instance, when WC had to modify a ticket in order to attend the funeral, why does WestJet not provide the passenger with a ticket that is at market value or just simply charge a change fee? WestJet because of this policy, can price gouge the passenger, and furthermore, because of this policy can tell a passenger to take it or leave it. Because of this policy, they are allowed to make a profit on a heartbreaking situation. The second important question that comes to mind is why is WestJet allowed to re-sell a passenger’s seat, to another airline carrier, even when their own customers have already purchased it? It’s highway robbery.

Since the pandemic, customer service has been bad in all sectors in general, but airlines have been pretty bad in particular, and frankly, this consumer horror story tops the list as one of the worst experiences anyone has ever had to face, young or old. Simply put, this policy is used by WestJet to price gouge passengers, extort them and take advantage of situations that are out of clients control. Airlines should not have the ability to do this to anyone, and my deepest sympathies go out to WC and her family.

At the time of writing, a complaint has been submitted by WC to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) regarding WestJet, this policy and her situation. I sincerely hope that this matter is resolved soon and I’ll keep you posted on WC’s story and the results of the CTA’s investigation.

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