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Cancellation policies: AC vs. WJ


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It's been a while since I've bought a ticket, but I have a question regarding the refund policy of Air Canada versus that of West Jet. Apparently Air Canada now offers no refund, no credit for the cancellation of any ticket ever. WestJet, on the other hand, offers full credit on cancellations right up to the last minute. Am I wrong about this? If not, doesn't this seem to be a incredible competitive disadvantage for us at AC? The friends of mine who travel a great deal and whose schedules are subject to frequent change consider this to be an extremely important point, so if WJ can afford to offer this service, how can AC afford not to?

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Either you didn't understand what your friend said, or he doesn't understand the rules.

If you run a check of the rules online, most Westjet fares are non-refundable. You just don't lose your money in the event of cancellation, it becomes a credit towards a future purchase. There are change and cancellation fees depending on the type of ticket. WJ's Flexible Fares can be changed without penalty, but are still non-refundable. WJ people may want to correct me if I have read the rules wrong.

AC's system is somewhat more complex, but if you take a look at the five fare categories for domestic, AC's cheaper fares, including the unrestricted one-way FUN fares, are also non-refundable, but certainly the FUN fares - which are the ones meant to roughly match the pricing and rules of discount airlines - do let you change flights for a fee under certain conditions and if you cancel outright you can apply the dollar value to a future flight, just like WJ. I believe it's the same for roundtrip discounts which require a Saturday stayover. Even they allow changes with a fee. Of course, with Air Canada's more expensive tickets like the online Latitude Fares and the full Economy and Business Class fares, you get complete refundability and there are no fees for changes.

I'd say the two airlines are following pretty much the same general principles on refundability and change fees except that AC allows full refundability at the high end of the price scale. WJ doesn't have such a high end price category.

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One other subtle ditinction of the AC Fun fare and the WJ Regular fare. With WJ, you must cancel or change your ticket at least two hours before the flight or the ticket is void and there is no credit.

With the AC Fun fare, if I read the rules correctly, you must change the reservation any time up to departure time, but it doesn't specifically talk about cancelling. So as not to lose the value of the ticket, you would have to change to specific dates, pay the change fee, and if you don't like your new dates, change them again and pay the fee again. Again, reading the rules, on WJ if you no show without change or cancellation, you lose your money immediatly. With the AC fun fare, it says after the day of the flight in question that the ticket has no value, but that would imply that if you no-show flight you could still change the booking later the same day. Maybe someone who has been through the actual process has a different interpretation.

In any case, using the Web fares for both airlines, AC and WJ generally charge at the low end about $400-500 for YYZ-YVR round trips with no effective advance purchase or minimum stay requirements. When the cheap, morr restrictive Regular fares sell out, WJ defaults to its Flexible Fares which top out at just over $1200 for a round trip on that route. AC jumps from the Fun fare level ($400-450) described above to about $1500 for a roundtrip in its fully refundable Latitude category (bookable only online) and $1900 for its full economy fare, which has lounge access, priority checkin and other differentiators from Latitude.

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Guest stick man

Thank you, dagger, for your thourough and informative response. I was travelling recently with a friend who had a ticket on AC between YVR and YYC through AVION (royal bank's aero miles program) and when he tried to cancel his return flight he was told that "Air Canada no longer gives credit towards future flights if you cancel." So either it has something to do with AVION, the rules have changed, or the agent was mistaken.

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I had two trips that had to be cancelled last December.

One on Westjet and one on AC/Zip.

Both appeared to be the same rules. Credit given for use on future travel, minus some change fees. [This also applys to Econo-Fun-Latitude fares on Mainline, but not ALL fares on mainline]. When I went to use them in the spring time the Westjet experience proved to be the most satisfying. I booked a new trip and gave the old trip as a reference and the old trip price was used as a partial payment for the new one [even though the old trip was actually my wifes ticket] with some deductions [$20??] for changes.

The AC/Zip experience was an incredible hodge-podge of Destina-AC-Zip on a conference call and charges for changes and then asking for my credit card to charge the excess fees. By the end I had no idea what I was paying and decided to wait for the e-mail receipt to figure it out. Even when I got that [after two more phone calls] I made an approximation for the expense account.

The two procedures are much the same, but Westjet again proved to be much more simple.

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