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Ontario woman demanding refund after Swoop changes departure city of flight

Jackie Lauzon is fighting to get a refund for a trip to Halifax after Swoop changed time, date and city of her departure.

Jackie Lauzon says the airline didn't modify her flights, they gave her totally new ones

Jackie Lauzon waits at an airport with two of her kids. The LaSalle woman had planned a trip to Halifax in June with her husband and another couple, but wants a refund after Swoop changed the date and city they'd leave from and come back to. (Submitted by Jackie Lauzon)

If it's at a different time, on a different day and leaving from a different city, is it still the same flight you paid for?

Jackie Lauzon is fighting to get her money back after Swoop, the ultra-low cost airline owned by WestJet, modified her flights to leave from Hamilton instead of London, two days early. 

The LaSalle, Ont. woman purchased four sets of tickets – for her and her husband as well as for another couple – during a seat sale back in January. The couples were supposed to fly from London to Halifax on June 9 and return on June 12.

She found out this past week that the departing flight was rescheduled to June 7, and they'd be flying in and out of Hamilton instead. 

"This isn't even the same flight we agreed upon, when we originally purchased it," Lauzon told Chris dela Torre, the host of CBC London's Afternoon Drive. "I thought it would be pretty cut and dry to get our money back, but I've found out that's not the case."

A woman in LaSalle found out her upcoming Swoop flight from London to Halifax had changed. Not just the time — but also the date and departure city. We heard Jackie Lauzon's story, and then talked to Gabor Lukacs, founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights Canada. 12:45
Jackie Lauzon spent 2.5 hours on hold to reach a customer service representative, and also exchanged messages with the airline over Facebook. (Submitted by Jackie Lauzon)

Lauzon said the email from the airline was vague about a refund for the $550 she spent on the flights, and she's since been given the option to change them and be on the hook for the price difference or take a 24 month credit.

"I spent 2.5 hours on hold in order to speak with someone direct," she explained. "[The customer service representative] says at this time Swoop does not have a policy in place to issue refunds as a result of COVID-19, and she says 'well you can check back in the future and that may be an option.'"

The fact that it "may" be an option, makes Lauzon nervous.

"If they go out of business, what happens? We're out of our money."

Swoop responded to CBC's request for comment with a statement about running on a reduced domestic network.

"As a result of COVID-19, Swoop will adjust its domestic and international flying schedule for May and June," the airline said. "All travellers impacted by these network updates are being notified by email with options on how to make changes to their flights or cancel an existing reservation.

Don't accept this as the new norm, says advocate

Gabor Lukacs, founder of Air Passenger Rights Canada, said Swoop should provide a refund.

"There's nothing in Swoop's contract that would allow Swoop to unilaterally change the destination or origin, that's completely absurd that they are trying to convince the public that that's the new norm," he explained.

Airline passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs in based in Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)

"If they can no longer provide a flight from London, we may be sympathetic to that possibly, but they have to provide a refund. Why? Because they're not delivering the service that contract is for."

If an airline refuses to provide a refund, Lukacs urged customers to ask their credit card company for a chargeback. He also encouraged people to research what they're entitled to before making the call.

"VISA and Mastercard have put [out] some very balanced guidelines on ensuring the passengers are able to exercise their rights to a chargeback," he said.

"In some cases the frontline agents for those credit card companies are not aware of how this is supposed to work but … when you speak to the manager and say here's the document from MasterCard International, here's the document from VISA International, they tend to process the chargeback."

Lauzon has since contacted her credit card company, American Express. She found out that she would have to wait until Swoop's 24 month credit had expired to file a claim, and that she'd only get a refund for three of the four sets of tickets. Lauzon said she and her husband are covered as cardholders, but only one "companion" can be reimbursed per claim. 

About the Author

Liny Lamberink

Reporter/Editor

Liny Lamberink is a reporter in London, ON. She can be reached at liny.lamberink@cbc.ca

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