WestJet offers to help Calgary couple bring Ukrainians to Canada, but only for this month

WestJet is offering a Calgary couple’s charity temporary support after initially shutting them down late last week.

Michael Garnett and his wife Rebecca Rider – an airline pilot – have used donated employee “passes” to bring hundreds of Ukrainian refugees to Canada over the past four months.

Buddy Passes are stand-by tickets that an airline gives employees as a perk to share with family and friends. Passes are free but users still have to pay taxes.

On Thursday, the Calgary-based airline asked them to stop using employee passes in this way, saying they had other programs established to support charitable causes and refugees.

50% reduction until the end of September

But on Monday, after CBC News ran a story about it, WestJet offered the couple’s charity 50% off codes through September 30. Garnett says while that’s something, it’s a very short-term trade-off.

« They’re offering us tickets at around three to four times the price we were paying for nine days, so we’re not incredibly happy with that offer. It’s something, it’s a starting point, but it’s not okay. not bring a lot of people here,” he said.

« We’ve looked around and scoured the internet for the best prices to bring people in the most efficient way, and we know that comes through our buddy pass program. »

Others offer to help

Garnett says there were positives last week as well for their charity, called Help From Canada.

Monetary donations arrived and he also heard of a Montreal-based airline, Air Transat, which he said offered to work with the charity on discount flights for Ukrainian refugees.

« They reached out and were incredibly helpful, » he said.

« They’ve worked with an organization called 4Ukraine.ca, and they’ve done a fantastic job…and they’re going to do whatever they can to get us some discount codes at short notice, but also to build a partnership with us on the long term. »

The charity’s founders reflect on the success they’ve had in providing passage to Ukrainian families

Their organization helped nearly 200 Ukrainians fleeing the war with flights to Canada

WestJet did not respond to a request for comment from CBC News on Tuesday. But in an earlier statement provided to CBC on Sunday, the airline said friend passes were to be used « for personal pleasure travel only. »

“They are not a guaranteed travel mechanism as they are only offered on hold and may lead to situations where users are unable to complete their journey,” spokeswoman Morgan Bell said.

“We can reassure them”

Garnett said Help From Canada has always been aware that these passes were for pending travel only and still managed to bring nearly 200 Ukrainians to Canada.

« That’s the conversation we’ve been trying to have with WestJet since last Thursday. They said they had concerns and instead of discussing those concerns with us they just said shut it up, » he said. -he declares.

“Of course we have a compelling plan. We have been doing this for about four months now and we have host families in Dublin, Paris, Barcelona and Rome. We have a group of nuns who welcome people when they don’t board their first flight.

« So in my mind, if they had any concerns about these things, all they had to do was ask. We can reassure them. »


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