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'It's not worth it': Sask. families still feelings effects of 400 cancelled WestJet flights from weekend service outage

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Some Saskatchewan families are still dealing with travel disruptions caused by a service outage at WestJet over the weekend.

On Saturday, the airline tweeted it was aware of a “system-wide outage impacting operations.”

On Thursday, a statement from WestJet confirmed that since the weekend, more than 400 flights had been cancelled related to the service outage.

One of those was a flight from Kelowna, B.C. to Regina on Saturday, which Ariane Desrosiers and her family were scheduled to be on.

“We tried to rebook and ended up going back and forth between Kelowna and Penticton in a rental car trying to get on the best flight,” Desrosiers said.

“Eventually on Tuesday, we got on one from Kelowna to Calgary.”

The family had been put on a connecting flight from Calgary to Regina but due to delays, missed the connection.

They decided to rent a car and drive back to Saskatchewan.

“We eventually just drove home [Wednesday] morning and got home at 9:30 at night, which was 108 hours after we left for the airport on Saturday,” she said.

With every person Desrosiers saw face to face or on the phone, she said she was told they couldn’t help. She said the lack of communication was the most frustrating part.

“The several times I ended up talking to customer service, it took upwards of seven hours to get on the phone with them,” she said.

“We just couldn’t do it anymore - we had to get home. It had been so long and they weren’t rebooking us.”

Ariane Desrosiers and her family experienced travel disruptions caused by the WestJet service outage. (Photo courtesy of Ariane Desrosiers)

Desrosiers said they’re out thousands of dollars from car rentals, gas, taxis, an extra hotel night, meals, and extended airport parking.

She said she has been directed to an online form for reimbursement.

“No one has explicitly said, ‘Yes you will be reimbursed’ and no one has actually said, ‘No you will not,’” she said.

“It’s a bit unnerving to just have to keep taking your credit card out and get yourself home.”

While Desrosiers’ family had trouble getting home from their trip, a Saskatoon family never got the chance to take theirs.

Rachael Steinke and her family were planning to travel to Louisiana and Florida, with flights scheduled to leave Saskatoon on Sunday evening.

They were supposed to stop in Calgary to get their connecting flight, but never ended up leaving Saskatchewan.

“We got on the plane two hours late and they say something about the oxygen being out in the plane,” she said.

She said they disembarked the plane, continued waiting and then about six hours later, it was ultimately cancelled.

“They rebooked us later for three days later,” she said.

Their new itinerary would bring them to Edmonton for further connections.

“We were actually in the taxi [Wednesday] on our way to the airport, received an email saying the flight to Edmonton had been cancelled,” she said.

She said they waited in line, offered to drive to Calgary to get their connecting flight to the U.S., but were told those seats had already been sold.

“So they had rebooked again for [Friday] and we just said, ‘It’s not worth it,’” she explained.

“It’s been five or six days that we’ve been dealing with this from WestJet, and we just can’t anymore. They offered no solution and they offered no compassion at the airport. We’re back home and we’ve given up our three week vacation because of these delays.”

With two kids and her husband excited to reconnect with family, she said it has been hard on everyone.

“We’ll try again, we’re resilient and we’re a family that will try to find solutions and a way forward, but I’ve got some pretty sad kiddos today,” she said.

WESTJET RESPONSE

In its statement, WestJet said it has accommodated more than 27,000 guests and added 65 extra segment flights to help speed up issues caused by Saturday’s outage.

“We understand that for many, this process has not been seamless and we are deeply sorry for the disruption and stress this has caused,” the statement said.

“As of [Thursday], there are a very limited number of re-accommodation guests remaining, and some may have already chosen alternative options.”

The airline said guests looking for more information on flight disruptions can visit www.WestJet.com/en-ca/interruptions

WestJet is asking other guests to refrain from contacting the airline until 72 hours in advance of their flight to ensure calls can be prioritized.

Both Steinke and Desrosiers said they would like to receive direct acknowledgment for the stress this has caused them, as well as full reimbursement for all costs associated with their delays.

“Travelling with children is already difficult, but when it takes 110 hours almost to go two provinces over, it’s a bit beyond,” Desrosiers said.

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