Penticton residents suing WestJet after holiday flights given to other passengers

Suing for giving away flights

A Penticton couple who was trying to fly back home over the Christmas holidays has filed a civil lawsuit against WestJet Airlines, claiming their return flights were given to other passengers and they received no help in getting back home.

The suit was filed Monday at the Penticton courthouse by Steven Richmond and Sharon Shannon, and names WestJet Airlines as the defendant.

The pair alleges that on Dec. 23, 2022, they had boarded a flight from Orlando, Fla. with their family, intending to reach Kelowna. They said their flight had been scheduled to arrive in Calgary for a connecting flight back to Kelowna.

They allege that their journey encountered initial delays in Florida due to a flight crew mix-up. Even with the delays, they claim that they arrived in Calgary before departure.

"However, shortly after landing, we received a text notification stating that our tickets to Kelowna had been cancelled," the civil suit reads.

"Seeking clarification, we approached a WestJet employee who informed us that our tickets had been given to other passengers under the assumption that we might arrive too late. We requested alternative arrangements and were informed that no available flights were available for at least four days."

They claim that they were instructed to wait for communication through text or a phone call from WestJet, but none was received.

They also alleged that they approached the service counter which was distributing hotel vouchers for cancelled flights, but were denied since their flight was not officially cancelled.

The holiday plans of thousands of people were disrupted over the Christmas Holidays when bad weather forced the cancellation of flights across the country. Many found themselves sleeping on airport floors until they could find a way home.

At the time, if travellers were stranded in an airport waiting for a connecting flight, Canada's air passenger bill of rights required the airline to put them up in a hotel overnight.

In May, the Liberal government laid out sweeping changes to Canada's passenger rights charter after the holiday travel turmoil in an effort to tighten compensation loopholes and toughen penalties.

"I explained to the staff that my daughter has Cerebral Palsy and that extended time in the airport would adversely affect her health, especially considering the importance of regular sleep. Shockingly, we were accused of feigning a disability, and the staff informed us that they would 'never help us again,'" the civil suit reads.

The couple said they were able to independently secure a hotel for the night. The following morning, they claim that WestJet told them they could not provide a foreseeable future flight for them.

They claim that their luggage had managed to make it to Kelowna, which they haven't been able to regain, despite "numerous attempts" to regain their property.

"In conclusion, our experience with WestJet involved cancelled flights, inadequate assistance, lost luggage and a failure to reimburse us for the resulting expenses. We were left with no choice but to independently secure alternate transportation and bear the burden of additional costs."

They are seeking $6,936.17 with $2,479.25 of the claim coming from missed flights and $2,647.54 coming from luggage and lost items.

A WestJet Media Relations Advisor reached via email said they "do not comment on matters before the courts."

None of the allegations contained in the lawsuit have yet been proven in court.

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