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Canadian airlines in spat over which was first to offer refunds for cancelled flights

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. The federal Competition Tribunal has come down in favour of the Vancouver Airport Authority on a case revolving around airplane food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

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

The social-media spat though isn’t much comfort to customers.

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

Air Canada claims it had already issued more than a billion dollars in refunds, then it was back to WestJet saying its refunds were for all ticket types.

For consumers, it’s just another chapter in a frustrating year waiting for cash.

Many of the offers had previously been credits for future travel, and still the wait drags on as WestJet says it’ll start contacting eligible passengers whose flights were cancelled early next month.

Refunds could take six to nine months time.

Airline analysts claim it’s not just about goodwill, rather, it may be a pre-condition on getting financial assistance from Ottawa.

Passenger Rights Advocate Gabor Lukacs said the six to nine months WestJet estimates it will take to process refund requests is excessive, calling it “ridiculous” and a “non-starter.”

Certification hearings on a class action against WestJet, Air Canada and Transat A.T. are to begin in federal court on November 2, the same day WestJet’s policy goes into effect.

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