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WestJet Airlines

Family Left Stranded After Westjet Cancels Flight

Family Left Stranded After Westjet Cancels Flight
Jackie Reddy

The Ma family had to pay over $15,000 for return flights to Canada from Puerto Rico after the carrier suspended operations to the island.

A family left stranded in Puerto Rico by the cancellation of their WestJet flight have expressed their upset over their ordeal, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports. Chris Ma and ten members of her family, who had flown to the island with American Airlines on October 28th to catch a cruise, only learned of the cancellation when they arrived at San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU) on November 4 to board their return flight home.

“It was just really upsetting […] We were stranded,” Ma said, adding, “We were just so worried.”

WestJet, along with Air Canada, canceled services to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in September. It says that it provided “ample notification” of this suspension of services, both posting a notice on its website on October 8th and sending out e-mail notifications.

Unable to find a WestJet counter at SJU, Ma made contact with the carrier, who did apologize, but said that they were unable to offer assistance. Ma then reached out to EC Travel, the agency that had booked the family’s tickets. Ma said that the agent was unaware that WestJet had suspended services to the island and advised her to purchase return flights via an alternative carrier.

Ma and her family eventually booked multiple connecting flights home to Toronto and Montreal via three separate carriers. In addition to this, the group had to spend an additional three days in San Juan before heading back to Canada. Ma said that, in total, the family spent an extra $15,500 in order to get home.

“I feel like WestJet is to blame. If they’re going to cancel flights that we already bought tickets for, they should have been able to help us more,” Ma commented.

WestJet, however, has defended its actions, saying that, in addition to notifying passengers, it alerted travel agents via a website aimed specifically at travel operators.

It also added that, while it can issue refunds for tickets and change fees, it is the travel agencies themselves who are responsible for arranging new flights for stranded passengers.

View Comments (10)

10 Comments

  1. drvannostren

    November 16, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Uh oh, not so nice guy westjet story.

    Now we always say “this is why you should have travel insurance”. Would a normal travel insurance policy cover this? How well would they cover it?

    I have travel insurance, but I ask because I’ve never used it and some of the policies seem lame, like rather than go find your own reasonable hotel quickly, you have to wait in the big line with the rest of the pax, take whatever crap hotel the airline gives you because IF they offer you one, it lets the insurance off the hook.

  2. diver858

    November 16, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    2 words: travel insurance. Using a major credit card to purchase airline tickets should also offer sufficient coverage for such situations.

  3. jjmoore

    November 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Travel Insurance…. Plain and simple.

  4. Jay71

    November 16, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I agree that it’d be interesting to see how effective travel insurance would be in such a situation. There seems to be some interesting variables like WS posting notice on Oct 8 while the cruise sailed at the end of the month.

    From a practical perspective, you’re travelling in the Caribbean during prime hurricane season. You really need to get travel insurance or accept having to address issues yourself on the fly caused by weather. If you book using a TA, you’d hope that they’d keep an eye on this stuff for you. But realistically, unless the TA is really on the ball, you pretty much need to keep on eye on this stuff yourself like signing up for notifications.

  5. FlyerJ

    November 16, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    The flight was cancelled almost a month before their travel date.

    They bought their ticket from “EC Travel” rather than from WestJet.

    The fault lies with EC Travel. It was their responsibility. It was their customer.

    (And who, in the weeks following a near-unprecedented natural disaster, doesn’t double-check their own travel plans to/from the same area?)

    I’m sure they were frustrated. I would have been too. But this is not WestJet’s fault.

  6. robsaw

    November 16, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Two words: Travel Agent
    The flights were cancelled more than 2 weeks BEFORE they even left Canada to start their vacation.
    The terms of my credit card trip interruption/cancellation would probably not apply as this would not be an unforeseen event given the evidence of notice, particularly to the TA, who SHOULD have made alternative arrangments in advance.

  7. KDS777

    November 17, 2017 at 6:20 am

    Wah, wah, wah……….too many people in this world who don’t take responsibility for their own actions.

    If you’re going to travel, especially to an area that had a hurricane, you had better have some situational awareness going on.

    Westjet posted notification OCT 8 that flights were cancelled, yet they travelled anyways on OCT 28.

  8. Counsellor

    November 17, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Sooner or later, the government of the US (and probably Canada as well) will adopt a rule similar to that in the EU making a carrier responsible for caring for passengers stranded through the airline’s business decisions. Care includes lodging and meals, and arranging for onward transportation.

    The US airline cartel has so far prevented this (they make huge political contributions, but that may not be relevant), but if enough travelers complain to their Congressional delegations, that may end.

  9. jonsg

    November 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    As others have said: a travel insurance policy with cancellation cover (and few wriggly get-out clauses) is essential to avoid this kind of problem.

  10. davistev

    November 18, 2017 at 3:39 am

    Sad situation for this family. Four weeks notice was sufficient time for WestJet to arrange alternative flight arrangements and pass this information on to the family. However I find it hard to believe the travel agency was not notified of this change. This looks like more of a small claims court case against the travel agency rather than the airline.

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