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Local resident disgruntled about WestJet's response time, six months after pandemic started

WestJet customer not happy

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no secret that cancellations of flights have become far more regular than in pre-pandemic times.

Peachland resident John Wardley is just one of many who have experienced it, after his WestJet flight from Kelowna to Mexico via Calgary booked just a few weeks ago for Nov. 28 was cancelled last week.

However, Wardley says it’s not the cancellation that bothered him the most - it was the inability to talk with someone on the other end of the phone. 

"I went to the website [on Monday], the flights were cancelled and there was a phone number. When you call that number, the answering machine says that there is a six to eight hour wait, and if you leave your number, you can call back. Which I did, I called back and that was 36 hours ago, I haven’t had a call back." 

He called WestJet another 6 or 7 times later that evening, and listened to a different answering machine telling him they were accepting call backs for Sunday - six days later. 

"I realize everybody has to change their business models, but you’ve got to make sure that the people who are supporting you, your paying customers, treat them right. Tell them why this is happening, this is what we’re going to do, not you can book a phone call in a week’s time, which I still couldn’t do. 

"You’re allowed six different attempts, you pick six times, and I picked six different times, and then the recording says you’ve extinguished all your attempts - goodbye."

Eventually resolving his case by posting a critical review on WestJet’s Facebook page, Wardley hopes the company will make changes to ensure others will not find themselves in the same position he did. 

However, booking onto another WestJet flight scheduled for Dec. 5 hasn't been without further costs on his part. 

Wardley rented out his home for the five months he planned to be in Mexico, and has now been forced to make other arrangements due to the schedule change. 

"As of Dec. 1, I’m homeless. I’ve rented my house out for five months and my flight date was Nov. 28, so as of Dec. 1 I have nowhere to live ... I took the Dec. 5 flight, but the problem with that is I’m now going to have five days of hotel bills and food bills."

Although Wardley understands airlines are doing it tough during the COVID-19 pandemic, he says customer service should still be top priority. 

"I don’t know why they can’t just have the staff. They know this is going to happen. WestJet is not a small organization. They’re one of only two main carriers in this country and they’ve got a lot of support from people over the years ... all we want, especially people my age, we just want somebody to talk to."

WestJet has laid off more than half of its 14,000-strong workforce since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic.

Public relations advisor Morgan Bell told Castanet they are "fully staffed," and working hard to take care of guests as quickly as possible. 

"We continue to experience very high volumes for our phone, email and social media support channels and apologize for any delays our guests are facing while trying to reach out. 

"The COVID-19 crisis has hit WestJet and the global aviation industry with devastating force and we continue to monitor frequently-evolving advisories, travel restrictions and guidance carefully to ensure we are managing our airline responsibly. We are adjusting our schedule more frequently than normal to meet the needs of our guests, our employees, as well as our airline and unfortunately changes can significantly impact our contact centre wait times.  

"We appreciate and thank our guests for their patience and understanding during this time."

For more information on WestJet's travel policies, visit the website



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