WestJet Airlines — latest check-in times not made clear and denied boarding on connecting flight
For my 2 kids and myself, I had bought 3 Westjet tickets to fly from Ottawa to Calgary on August 27, 2019. The trip is comprised of 2 Westjet flights. One is from Ottawa to Toronto (Westjet 3469) departing from Ottawa at 12:45 pm. The other is from Toronto to Calgary (Westjet 665) departing from Toronto at 3:00 pm. The cost of these flights for the 3 of us are $1, 064.88.
We arrived at the Ottawa airport at 11:50 am and lined up for the self check-in. When we got to the machine, the self check-in failed. We then lined up at the counter and by the time we talked to a Westjet agent, it was 12:15 and were told we were too late to check-in because there was a 45 minute cut-off and that we also lost the chance to get onto the connecting flight (from Toronto to Calgary) even if we get a flight into Toronto from another airline.
The tickets were purchased through Expedia. No where on the confirmation email sent with the e-tickets does it state there is a 45 minute cut-off for check-ins prior to departure. The restrictions that are explicitly stated are that cancellations not allowed, changes not allowed, upgrades not allowed, non-refundable, non-transferable. So by denying us boarding due to the cut-off, we had no way of going without buying new tickets at the counter.
If only I had known about this strict cut-off, I would have skipped the self check-in given the line up and gone straight to the counter. I would also have sorted out a different car arrangement to get there earlier.
Furthermore, I should not have lost out on the connecting flight if there was a way for me to get us to the Toronto airport in time for the Toronto to Calgary flight.
The end result is that I had to pay for new tickets at a cost of $2, 271.72 to get us to Calgary that day. I bought these new tickets from Air Canada as I no longer wanted to deal with Westjet.
I examined the confirmation email and did find a link to "complete penalty rules for changes and cancellations" which opened an Expedia page for Fare Rules and Restrictions. Half way down this page, there is a Penalties paragraph which states
"... FOR ALL FLIGHTS FULLY MARKETED AND OPERATED BY WESTJET FOR
ROUTES YOW/YMQ/YT AND YTO/YMQ.YOW-NYC GUEST MUST PRESENT THEMSELVES AT THE AIRPORT OR BY CALLING WS WITHIN 2 HOURS OF
THEIR ORIGINAL SCHEDULED DEPARTURE. GUESTS WILL BE PERMITTED TO TRAVEL ON THE NEXT AVAILABLE FLIGHT TO THEIR ORIGINAL
DESTINATION FOR NO CHARGE. ROUTES ARE SUBJECT TO AVAILABLE SPACE. OTHERWISE THE TICKET IS FORFEIT IN CASE OF NO
The wording "ROUTES YOW/YMQ/YT AND YTO/YMQ.YOW-NYC" is confusing as routes have an origination and a destination and only the second part refers to NYC as a destination. It also assumes all travelers know the code of the airports. As YOW is for Ottawa, I assume all Westjet passengers must be at the Ottawa airport 2 hours before departure time. In my travels (including with Westjet in the past), I am at the airport an hour before departure and have boarded. I have observed many other passengers coming at about this same time prior to departure. This is also inconsistent with what I was told at the counter about the 45 minute cut-off for check-in.
This very important cut-off needs to be stated explicitly and clearly in the same way as the other restrictions and limitations. It should not only be in a link which turns out not to be accurate. So basically, the 45 minute cut-off is no where in the confirmation email or in the links to Penalties. What is in the Penalties about being at the airport 2 hours ahead of the departure time and it is not enforced.
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