A Kelowna senior is exasperated after being unable to obtain a $12,000 refund from WestJet for a vacation package derailed by last month’s winter weather.
Elisabeth Peltenburg, her husband, daughter and son-in-law pooled their funds to purchase in August 2022 a trip to Orlando, Fl., bringing along her four grandchildren.
The package including flights and hotels, purchased directly from WestJet Vacations, was intended to celebrate Peltenburg’s 83rd birthday and the wedding of her daughter and son in law.
The couple had gotten married about a week prior to booking the trip and used their wedding gift money to pay for their portion. The total cost for the eight passengers and hotel room came to just over $12,000.
The direct flight was scheduled to depart Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 24, 2022, but was canceled due to a winter storm that brought Canada’s aviation sector to its knees.
After months of preparation and anticipation—purchasing everything from travel insurance to DisneyWorld tickets—Peltenburg says they were extremely disappointed when their outgoing flight was canceled.
“There are no words,” she said.
Peltenburg says WestJet offered to rebook them on a flight in Dec. 29, which did not work for them because her daughter had to be back at work as a teacher when school resumed on Jan. 3. The original trip had a return date of Dec. 31.
Since then, Peltenburg says they have been unable to be reimbursed for the undelivered vacation package.
Peltenburg said her daughter spent 5.5 hours on hold with WestJet, and once she was able to speak with an agent, she was told to call the same number that she was on hold for.
Peltenburg went to the WestJet desk at the Kelowna airport, where staff were unable to help and encouraged her to call the customer service line. Peltenburg went as far as mailing her complaint and request in writing to WestJet’s headquarters in Calgary, but has received no response.
Canadian regulations require airlines to provide a refund within 30 days for flights that cannot be rebooked within 48 hours of the original departure.
Castanet asked WestJet media relations about the situation on Friday and was told by a spokesperson the file would be “escalated” for review. As of Monday afternoon, Peltenburg says she has heard nothing from the airline.
Peltenburg says her daughter is in the process of claiming a chargeback through her credit card for the flights.
“WestJet only wants to talk about the flight,” said Gerardus Mass, Peltenburg’s husband. “And not none whatsoever about the rest of the package.”
The couple provided an invoice to Castanet showing the package was fully purchased through WestJet Vacations, with the airline’s head office listed as the agency location.
Peltenburg says the situation has been particularly hard on her daughter.
“Just devastating,” she said “She has cried… both of them (daughter and partner) are in teaching, and they work so hard. And this is lots of money, just taken away from them.”