Winnipegger surprised after baggage fees charged in Canadian currency on trip to U.S., USD on return

A Winnipeg woman is crying foul over WestJet's baggage fees after being charged the same dollar amount — but in different currencies — on her way to, and back from, a U.S. golfing trip.

Michelle Augert was charged $84 for baggage each way on trip — but fee was in U.S. dollars on way home

Winnipegger Michele Augert feels she was overcharged for baggage on a flight from Arizona to Winnipeg recently. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

A Winnipeg woman is crying foul over WestJet's baggage fees after being charged the same dollar amount — but in different currencies — on her way to, and back from, a U.S. golfing trip.

Michele Augert was returning to Winnipeg on Saturday with a group of six others from a week of golfing in Arizona. 

On the way down, she paid $84 Cdn to check a bag and a set of golf clubs — $30 for the first bag, $50 for the second, plus $4 for GST. She expected the same on the return trip to Winnipeg — but got a surprise when she checked her credit card statement. 

"Going back to Canada we were assessed the very same [$84] fees, but what came as a shock ... was that all of that was assessed in U.S. dollars," said Augert. "It translated to $115 Canadian." 

Augert reached out to WestJet looking for an explanation for why she was charged $84 Cdn on the way down, and $84 US on the way back. She said while the company was apologetic for the situation, a representative pointed her to the fine print.

"Their explanation was that the point of sale for the baggage was in the U.S. that they were able to charge U.S. dollars," she said.

If that's the case, though, she's puzzled as to why WestJet charged GST.

"I can't understand how they could be collecting GST on items that were sold in the U.S.," Augert added. "You can't have it both ways."

Charges appropriate: WestJet 

A representative for WestJet told CBC News in a statement that Augert was charged appropriately for the baggage. 

"The currency for airline-based fees is defined by the point of origin for the trip," a WestJet spokesperson said in an email — so U.S. dollars for the return.

"As this was a reservation that originated in Canada, GST must be charged on all baggage fees attached to this reservation," the email said.

"Currency is not a relevant factor in the legislation when determining if GST applies."

However, airline passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs said GST aside, Augert wasn't treated fairly.

"The passenger was overcharged here," he said. "She was charged more than what WestJet's terms and conditions permit." 

Lukacs pointed to WestJet's own document, which states "all fares and charges are stated in the currency from which the passenger will initiate travel."

WestJet acknowledged Augert's travel originated in Canada. 

'Loopholes' add to costs: passenger

"The fact that they were charging in a foreign currency was very shocking," said Augert. "To have Canadian taxes on U.S. currency applied to that was, I think, a little more disturbing to us." 

Augert said the charge this time will have her watching her travel dollars a little more closely in the future. 

"I really just think that they need to be a little more transparent," said Augert.

"I think most people are looking to be treated fairly. I don't think people are looking to pay excessive fees because of loopholes that add to the cost of that trip."

A Winnipeg woman is crying foul over WestJet's baggage fees after being charged the same dollar amount — but in different currencies — on her way to, and back from, a U.S. golfing trip. 1:39

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