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Friday,  July 19, 2024 4:44 PM 

Full refunds for customers of WestJet Vacations in Ontario? TICO addresses strike

Full refunds for customers of WestJet Vacations in Ontario? TICO addresses strike
(File photos/WestJet)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The mechanics strike at WestJet over the Canada Day long weekend left a giant hole in the airline’s network as hundreds of flights were cancelled, at the last minute, disrupting the travel plans of some 100,000 customers.

In response to the labour action, the airline activated flexible change and cancellation policies for its impacted customers.

This also included a refund policy for customers who booked air and land packages through WestJet Vacations.

What was valid for travel between June 29-July 3, 2024, on all fare packages, the policy offered a $0 one-time fee waiver for all changes or cancellations. 

Also in the small print was this: customers who cancel their package will only get the air portion refunded.

The land portion is being returned in the form of WestJet dollars with a one-year expiry date from the date of cancellation.

Given that travel is a provincially-regulated industry (only three provinces have regulations, this being Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia), the outcome of this policy may vary across the country. It will also depend on the terms and conditions of each booking.

TICO lays down the law

For customers of WestJet Vacations in Ontario, potential options for a full refund may be available, depending on a variety of factors.

PAX contacted the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), which regulates consumer protection, to get a sense of how the refund policy at WestJet Vacations jives with provincial law.

In an email, Dorian Werda, TICO’s registrar, shared guidance for Ontario consumers who purchased a WestJet Vacations package (and not land and air separate).

Under Ontario law, if a tour operator is unable to provide the travel services purchased due to the failure of a supplier(s) to provide the service, then the customer must be offered their choice of:

  • A refund
  • Comparable alternate travel services acceptable to the customer
  • A voucher or similar document that is acceptable to the customer for future redemption towards travel services.

“If the customer prefers a refund, it must be given to them,” Werda said.

If the customer initiated a cancellation for travel services that were still available, they would be subject to the terms and conditions of the booking, Werda added.

This may apply to some customers who still managed to take their WestJet vacation, despite it being disrupted by the strike. As PAX learned from travel advisors this week, WestJet’s call centre tried to get impacted customers booked on flights with other carriers and get them on their way (but it wasn’t easy).

As well, based on feedback from the trade, it appears the airline isn’t paying for lost resort nights due to later-than-expected arrivals in destinations.

PAX has reached out to WestJet Vacations for further clarification on its refund policy.

Comp Fund doesn’t apply

The Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund, meanwhile, does not apply to the WestJet strike, Werda noted. For that fund to kick in, a company must be bankrupt or cease operations. Labour strikes are not covered.

The Canadian Transportation Agency’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations would also apply for airline delays and cancellations. Those policies can be viewed here

If any Ontario-based consumers or travel advisors have questions, they can contact TICO at

“It’s truly unfortunate that numerous consumers were affected by travel disruptions during one of the busiest weekends of the year,” Werda said.

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