WestJet is offering a Calgary charity some temporary support after they were initially closed late last week.
Michael Garnett and his wife Rebecca Rider – an airline pilot – have spent the past four months using donated “buddy passes” from employees to get hundreds of Ukrainian refugees to Canada.
Buddy passes are standby tickets that an airline gives to employees as a perk to share with family and friends. The passes are free, but users still have to pay taxes.
On Thursday, the Calgary-based airline asked them to stop using buddy passes for employees as they have other established programs to support charities and refugees.
50% discount until the end of September
But Monday, after TBEN News ran a story about it, WestJet offered the couple’s charity 50 percent off codes until September 30. Garnett says that while it’s something, it’s a very short-term compromise.
“They’re offering us tickets at about three to four times the price we paid for nine days, so we’re not incredibly happy with that offer. It’s something, it’s a starting point, but that’s not going to bring much in people here,” he said. he.
“We’ve looked around and scoured the internet for the best prices to win people over in the most efficient way, and we know it’s through our buddy pass program.”
Others offer help
Garnett says the past week has also been positive for their charity called Help From Canada.
Cash donations have been pouring in, and he’s also heard of a Montreal-based airline, Air Transat, which he says has offered to partner with the charity on discounted flights for Ukrainian refugees.
“They’ve reached out and have been incredibly helpful,” he said.
“They work with an organization called 4Ukraine.ca, and they’ve done a fantastic job…and they’re going to do everything they can to get us discount codes for the short term, but also to partner with us for the long term.” .”
In a statement, WestJet said that following an application on Sept. 18 through the Airport Community Giving Program, the airline’s community investment team provided the charity the following day with details of how it could work together, including an offer to provide promotional codes.
“This process has not changed and it is an important clarification that the provision of discount codes was not facilitated in any exceptional way, it was based on a longstanding, formalized process,” said spokeswoman Morgan Bell.
“Support has been available since May 2022 and WestJet originally provided this charity [or its] affiliates with support via an internal request in May 2022 with identical flight discount codes.”
In an earlier statement to TBEN on Sunday, the airline said buddy passes would be used “for personal leisure travel only.”
“They are not a guaranteed mechanism for travel, as they are only offered on standby and could lead to situations where users cannot complete their journey,” said spokeswoman Morgan Bell.
‘We can reassure them’
Garnett said Help From Canada was always aware that these passes are for standby travel only, and has still managed to bring nearly 200 Ukrainians to Canada.
“This is the conversation we’ve been trying to have with WestJet since last Thursday. They said they had some concerns and instead of going through those concerns with us, they just said stop,” he said.
“Of course we have a convincing plan. We’ve been doing this for about four months now and we have host families in Dublin, in Paris, in Barcelona and in Rome. We have a group of nuns who take people in when they don’t get on their first flight.
“So in my mind, if they were concerned about these things, all they had to do was ask. We can reassure them.”