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WestJet, Air Canada start Twitter tiff over who was first to offer ticket refunds

Last Updated Oct 22, 2020 at 7:53 am MST

FILE: A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Who offered it first, Air Canada or WestJet? Airlines in online tiff over timing of their COVID-19 refunds

WestJet said it was first airline in Canada to offer cash rebates to customers whose flights were cancelled due to COVID

Air Canada claims it's already issued more than a billion dollars in refunds

CALGARY – The country’s two major airlines are into a Twitter fight over which one was first to offer refunds to passengers for cancelled flights.

Soon after WestJet announced on Wednesday that it would start providing refunds to passengers whose flights had been cancelled by the airline as a result of COVID-19, Air Canada accused WestJet of making a misleading statement about being the first to do so.

Air Canada claims it’s already issued more than a billion dollars in refunds, writing, “@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.”

Of course, WestJet responded.

“Let’s clear the air,” WestJet’s tweet reply to Air Canada reads. “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.”

For consumers, however, it’s just another chapter in a frustrating year waiting for cash. Many of the offers to customers from airlines for cancelled flights have previously been credits for future travel.

Calgary-based WestJet says it’ll start contacting eligible passengers about refunds early next month. It will start with those whose flights were cancelled early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, and work from there.

It could take customers six to nine months to get any money back.

Airline analysts speculate the refund plan may also be a precondition of getting any financial assistance from the federal government.

The airline industry has taken a massive hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which grounded many flights due to lockdowns. Travel has been restricted in many countries around the world, including in Canada.