Swoop airline updates policy after backlash over refunds for COVID-19 cancellations
TORONTO -- Budget airline Swoop has updated its policies following angry backlash from customers who couldn’t get a refund for trips they wanted to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian airline, a subsidiary of WestJet, announced a policy change Friday after the federal government advised against all non-essential international travel.
The new “peace-of-mind” policy is offering cancellations for a credit note valid for a year. It has also offered it’s “ModiFly” feature, to change the date and time of a booking up to 24 hours before departure, to all customers bookings from March 13 for free.
But if the fare on the new flight is higher than the fare at the time of booking, customers must pay the difference.
“Travellers scheduled to travel to the U.S., Mexico or Jamaica on or before March 31 2020, are being contacted directly by email with the option to rebook or cancel their existing itinerary,” Swoop said in a press release Friday.
Swoop customers who are travelling within seven days of the announcement will not be able to add ModiFly to their flight and must pay a $150 change fee.
Cancellations, refunds and changes are not available at the airport.
Normally, the ultra-low cost carrier does not permit cancellations more than 24 hours after making a booking and must be more than seven days from departure. Tickets are also non-transferable and non-refundable.
Before the changes were announced, angry customers reached out to CTVNews.ca to complain.
“Too late for my family we lost our money already,” Jeffrey Cuff wrote.
“Doing the socially responsible thing and deciding not to travel, while this corporation profits on the pandemic.”
On Thursday Candace Berner took to Facebook to complain about her experience with Swoop rescheduling a group booking.
“They won't post their schedule early for November and December so people can reschedule for those dates,” she said.
Swoop has not cancelled flights due to the coronavirus, but says it is “closely monitoring the situation.”
TOILET PAPER AD
The airline has played-up recent scenes of panic buying where people have been purchasing large amounts of toilet paper.
It’s website homepage features a toilet roll picture and a play on words “prices so low, you gotta go.”
“Unroll savings with 25,000 seats on sale…toilet paper included,” reads an advert on the site.
The company received some backlash to the commercial on its Instagram page.
A spokesperson for Swoop said it was never the company’s intention to offend.
“Our marketing campaign is a tongue-in-cheek promotion highlighting increased toilet paper demand, not the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she told CTVNews.ca via email.
“We are drawing a parallel to the cost of stocking up on toilet paper vs. the cost of being able to book a low-cost flight with Swoop.”