No refund after passenger dies before using airline ticket

A South Delta couple is taking issue with ticket policies at WestJet following the death of a family member and the inability to get a refund or credit from the airline.

Nicki Adamson and her husband Trevor Drummond contacted the Optimist after Drummond’s 77-year-old mother Angel passed away after she had purchased a base fare ticket from the airline to attend a family wedding in early July.

Angel purchased the ticket through a travel agent in February.

“She became ill and ended up in hospital. I first contacted WestJet on June 12 to see if we could do anything as we knew by that point she would not be able to travel to the wedding, so I wanted to see what were my options,” said Adamson.

“We first asked if we could change the ticket, so another family member could attend and use the ticket. We went right to the airport because we weren’t getting anywhere over the phone. We spoke with a supervisor and the only thing they did was give us a bereavement number. My husband called them and WestJet said it was policy and they would make no exceptions.”

WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart expressed sympathies for the family when contacted by the Optimist, but said the airline’s policies around base fare tickets is clear.

“WestJet receives many inquiries from guests asking for exceptions to basic fare rules for extenuating circumstances, however, unfortunately it is not possible,” Stewart said. “Understandably, if WestJet was to make an exception for one situation it would only be reasonable to make it for all, thus making the purpose of basic fares obsolete.”

Stewart said WestJet’s basic fare allows the airline to provide a fare for those guests looking to fly at the lowest price without added features or flexibility.

“Basic fare bookings are not eligible for refund, exchange or name changes (which is what the family was requesting) should travel plans require cancellation or changes,” added Stewart. “At the time of booking guests always have the option to purchase other fares we offer (Econo, Premium, etc.) if they are looking for options such as flexibility, date changes, advanced seat selection and WestJet Rewards.

“Ultimately, if we did not have our basic fare we would effectively be asking all guests to subsidize the provision of flexibility and rewards points - even for those guests who don’t require either of these options.”

Adamson said she has never known an airline to not offer some kind of bereavement clause to either refund or credit an account.

“I understand that they can’t change the ticket and the circumstances of how she booked it was difficult. The travel agent should have asked her about insurance and we had no idea either, but when someone dies you never plan that,” added Adamson. “She didn’t know she was going to die when she booked this ticket, so I understand they have the rules for when you get sick, but I’ve never known another airline to do this.

“I will never fly WestJet again.”



© Delta Optimist