B.C. judge approves class action lawsuit against WestJet over baggage fees | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. judge approves class action lawsuit against WestJet over baggage fees

Image Credit: WestJet
January 08, 2021 - 7:30 AM

A B.C Judge has ruled that a class-action lawsuit can proceed against WestJet for charging customers for checked baggage fees.

In a Jan. 6 B.C. Supreme Court decision, Justice Amy Francis ruled a class-action suit filed by Dora Bergen and Phebe-Joy Trotman against the airline had met the requirements needed to move forward through the court.

The Justice's move, could theoretically, pave the way for tens of thousands of WestJet passengers to claim fees they were charged for checked-in luggage.

At the root of the issue is a $25 to $35 checked baggage fee some WestJet airlines charged for checking in a bag.

According to the decision, the small print explaining WestJet baggage charges contained conflicting information about the price of the first checked bag on domestic and international WestJet flights.

"The Tariffs said that a passenger’s first checked bag was free and they also said that a passenger’s first checked bag would cost $25 to $35," the plaintiff says in the decision.

The decision says between September 2014 and February 2018, the airline charged passengers travelling domestically on Econo Farres, WestJet Vacations and Group Fares $25 for their first checked bag, but said in its small print that the airline would "accept one piece of checked baggage without charge."

WestJet’s international flights had similar inconsistencies saying "a first, second, third or fourth piece of checked baggage... will be charged in accordance with the fee table," but went onto say "for each fare-paying passenger travelling, the carrier permits a free checked baggage allowance of one item."

The plaintiff in the suit has brought the claim on behalf of all individuals "residing anywhere in the world" who travelled on a fare-paying domestic WestJet-operated flight and paid a fee for their first checked bag between September 2014 and February 2018. 

The suit also extends to those who took international flights between January 2016 and March 2019.

The court documents do not say if there was any particular incident that spurred the plaintiffs to launch the class-action suit.

While much of the decision is given over to complex legal arguments surrounding the competition act, WestJet does argue the class-action suit should "exclude passengers" who did not read the prices prior to booking their flights or paying for baggage fees.

However, Justice Francis dismissed the argument.

"That contract binds the parties even if they have not read it," the justice said in the decision.

WestJet also argues the Canada Transportation Agency should deal with the case as the agency has protocols for dealing with customer complaints.

Again, Justice Francis dismissed the airline's argument.

Ultimately, the Justice approved the class-action suit.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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