Canadian travel advisors are bemoaning news that WestJet is abandoning the WestJet Agents booking channel and are questioning the airline’s commitment to the travel agency community. As Open Jaw reported on 11SEP, WestJet will be decommissioning the WestJet Agent booking channel as of 24OCT 2023.
Agents told OJ that WestJet recently sent out a press release via IATA saying the program would end later this month.
In a statement emailed to OJ, a WestJet official said the airline "remains committed to its agency partners and is actively working to provide travel agents with a new booking option. More information on timelines and what partners can expect will be shared as soon as possible."
Agents told Open Jaw that the WestJet document sent to IATA also talks about commissions and booking methods.
"Accredited agencies may continue to book WestJet in their preferred GDS. There will be no change to the contractual commission rates for accredited agencies. Non-accredited agencies that do not use a GDS may choose to book with a consolidator. Your compensation will be determined by the agreement you come to with the consolidator."
Nancy Wilson, co-founder Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors, said the move shows advisors are not truly valued by the Calgary-based airline.
“I have seen a decline between the relationship between WestJet and the travel advisor community over the last number of years, so this news is not overly shocking,” she told Open Jaw. “It is, however, the confirmation of what many already knew; that we are not truly valued by the WestJet corporation.
“The relationship seems to have continually declined after Onex took ownership. We tried to talk to them, to help them understand that there is a disconnect, but they did not want to hear,” Wilson said.
“It is unfortunate to see this, when most other airlines and suppliers really have come to value us more than ever, especially throughout, and after the pandemic. I feel as though the relationship with WestJet has maybe become irreparable. It certainly feels that way for me, unless they do a complete 180 and show us that they are willing to make huge changes.”
“I feel this is part of the plan they have had for a very long time now, sadly,” said Elayne Pink, co-owner of Absolute Travel in Halifax.
Travel advisor Brenda Slater said she has a lot of questions about the move and worries about agents losing commissions.
“I checked my Head Office Workplace site, and we only see the article, followed by some comments reiterating that it seems odd that they would decommission their booking engine for agents, without having something already prepared to replace it. Which begs the question, are they really intending to replace it? Something tells me the answer to that is, no.
“For advisors and agencies that have access to GDS for air only, it won’t be an issue, as they can still book (and get commission) there. For those agencies that were using the agent portal only, they will now be either forced to book direct (for no commission - saving WestJet the commission revenue) or via a consolidator," Slater said.
“We also are not sure what is happening with WestJet vacations. Will they still be in our SIREV system?
“The press release seems to be leaving quite a bit up to the imagination,” she said. “Probably not the best approach.”
WestJet said agents that require support with bookings scheduled to depart after 24OCT are invited to call WestJet's Travel Support Team at 1-877-664-3205. Travel agent partners may also contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.