No, Westjet and American Airlines are not the same company


Thomas Trayer and his family book tickets on WestJet Airlines. When they get to the airport security checkpoint, they’re told that their flight is canceled. They haven’t been able to get a refund for the canceled flight. Can our advocates help?

Question: My daughter, grandson and I booked tickets on WestJet Airlines to travel from Toronto, Canada, to our home in Philadelphia, Pa. When we arrived at the airport security checkpoint, we were told that our flight was canceled. We were instructed to go to our assigned gate, which was an American Airlines gate and talk to one of its agents to determine what to do next.

We got to the gate and there wasn’t anyone there. We went to different terminals and countless gates and still didn’t find any American Airlines agents. It was like they went into hiding. Because we cleared security, we couldn’t leave the area unless accompanied by an agent. We would have been trapped in the airport, but for the help of a WestJet agent who went beyond the call of duty. She called an American agent to come to the secured gate and stayed with us until one arrived. After two phone calls and 25 minutes, an American agent finally appeared. At this point, we had been in the airport for over three hours. It was unbelievable.

The American agent apologized for the inconvenience and explained that the cancellation was weather related, so the airline wouldn’t pay for a hotel. We were told that it would be two-three days before we could be booked on another flight. That was unacceptable. We rented a car and drove through a thunderstorm, arriving home nine hours later at 2:30 a.m. I requested that American refund the cost of the three plane tickets and the rental car, but it hasn’t responded. Needless to say, this was an extremely frustrating situation. Can you help? — Thomas Trayer, Lititz, Pa.

Answer: When your flight was canceled, American Airlines should have had staff available to assist you. You shouldn’t have had to hunt down a representative. But, even more so, WestJet should not have left you stranded alone in the airport to fend for yourself. Although you felt that the WestJet agent went “beyond the call of duty” to assist you, she really didn’t do anything but find you an American agent. You bought your ticket from WestJet and its agent should have tried to get you booked on another flight. It’s troubling that all she did was push your problem onto the American agent and leave.

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You bought the tickets through WestJet that included a codeshare flight with American Airlines. That meant that WestJet sold you three seats on a plane operated by another airline. I see problems that start with WestJet. WestJet took your money and regardless of which airline it booked you on, you were still its customer. When American canceled the flight, WestJet should have worked with American, or another airline, to help you get rebooked. Your problem was still WestJet’s problem to solve. You didn’t realize that and you let the WestJet agent use the codeshare flight as an excuse to renege on her duty to help you.

What made this more confusing was that it was the American Airlines agent who apologized for the inconvenience and tried to help you. So you thought that American Airlines owed you a refund for the cost of the tickets. By the time you contacted us, you had emailed American Airlines and written a letter to its president and had not received a response.

But it wasn’t American who owed you a refund, it was WestJet. It is understandable why this was “an extremely frustrating situation.”

When you contacted us, you requested help in getting American to refund $1470 for the tickets and to reimburse $530 for the rental car. Our advocates explained that airlines are not obligated to repay the costs for alternate travel arrangements. Airlines are only responsible for refunding the costs of the unused tickets. While investigating your case, our advocates realized that because it was a codeshare flight, WestJet owed you a refund, not American.

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You engaged in self-advocacy with American, but not WestJet. Prior to contacting our advocates for help, you could have posted your question to our help forums. Our forums, which are staffed by travel industry experts, and often read by company executives. Our forum advocates would have given you helpful advice and directed you to WestJet for a refund. You could also have tried escalating your complaint by contacting company executives who may have intervened on your behalf. Our website lists WestJet Airlines executive contact information.

Before intervening on your behalf, our advocates suggested that you directly contact WestJet for a refund. Our advocates sent you the link to contact WestJet and if you needed to escalate your complaint, the link for its executive contact information. You contacted WestJet and it agreed to issue a refund for the cost of the tickets. You thanked us for the assistance and told us that without it, you wouldn’t have known what to do. We’re glad that we were able to point you in the right direction.


Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight.

  • cscasi

    Once again, Chris and company come though to help Mr. Tryer get a refund of the price he paid Westjet for three airline tickets that were unused because the flight was cancelled because of weather. It is a shame that these folks were not notified in advance that their flight was cancelled and that there was no one at the gate to advise them what to do next. Perhaps, had they known their flight was cancelled, they could have stopped at the ticket counter and gotten the help they needed (providing they were manned).
    I am glad they finally got their money back for the tickets and had to bear the cost of the rental car on their own.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    OP wrote: “When we arrived at the airport security checkpoint, we were told that our flight was canceled. We were instructed to go to our assigned gate, which was an American Airlines gate and talk to one of its agents to determine what to do next.”

    It seems to me that the security checkpoint personnel made a mistake by telling the OP to go to the gate. Please remember that the security checkpoint personnel doesn’t work for the airlines…they are security. I have had cancelled flights where the gate was emptied because the flight was cancelled in advance and you had to go to the ticket counter to get a resolution. The OP should have went to the ticket counter.

    Diane Perera wrote: “When your flight was canceled, American Airlines should have had staff available to assist you.”

    They probably did…they were probably at the ticket counter. I don’t know the presence of AA at the Toronto airport but it could be like airports where the airline has a ‘limited’ presence. For example, America West (then US Airways) had a few flights from Vancouver to Phoenix…they used to contract AA employees to staff their ticket counter and their boarding gate. The AA employees at the America WestUS Airways ticket counter would leave the ticket counter to staff the boarding gate. In this situation, it is a strong possibility that all of the AA staff at the Toronto airport were at the ticket counter rebooking passengers. IMHO, the OP should have went to the ticket counter instead of listening to a non-airline employee, the security checkpoint personnel.

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the article, who was the travel agent for this trip? it seems like the OP was their own DIY travel agent. There is nothing wrong in being your own DIY travel agent if you know what you are doing; etc. It seems to me that the OP wasn’t a frequent flyer and may have been better served by using a professional brick & mortar travel agent. The OP could have taken out his phone and called the travel agent to resolve or to find out how to precede…instead of worrying about getting a refund; waiting for the refund; etc.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “It is a shame that these folks were not notified in advance that their flight was cancelled…”

    It wasn’t disclosed but it is my guess that the OP purchased the tickets from an OTA or directly from Westjet. Most airlines will send you a text notificaiton about the status of your flight if you sign up for it. Since the it was an AA flight that was sold by Westjet, I doubt it that Westjet requested a flight notification text from AA when the reservation was made.

    “…and that there was no one at the gate to advise them what to do next.” It seems to me that the security checkpoint personnel, who doesn’t work for an airline nor know about rebooking and etc, misdirected the OP…they should have went to the ticket counter. It is common for airlines that have limited flights at an airport to have the ticket counter people to work the boarding gate. It is a strong possibility that all of the AA personnel were at the ticket counter rebooking the passenger on this flight.

  • Annie M

    Its a shame she wasn’t automatically refunded for the cancelled flight. She shouldn’t have even had to ask for a refund – it should have been automatic.

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