WestJet reviewing baggage policy after customer calls it discriminatory

TORONTO — WestJet says it is reviewing its baggage policy after a customer complained that it discriminated against travellers from certain countries.

The airline currently has a policy that prevents travellers to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago from checking in more than two bags, unless the extra luggage is “a golf bag containing golf clubs.”

Jared Walker tweeted about the policy after his 62-year-old mother was prevented from bringing an oversized bag on a trip to Jamaica to attend a funeral.

Walker, 30, said the policy is “absurd” and shows preferential treatment to tourists, as opposed to travellers returning to their country of origin.

WestJet told The Canadian Press in a statement that the baggage policy was in place for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago ”due to the amount of excess checked baggage brought by guests travelling to these particular destinations.”

The company said it’s reviewing the aspect of the baggage policy related to golf bags, recognizing “the optics are poor.”

It further said that travellers who want to bring more than two bags to Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago can do so through WestJet Cargo, its air shipping service.

The airline said it apologized to Walker and reached out to him in an attempt to resolve the issue. “It was never our intention to be discriminatory in this specific baggage policy,” said Lauren Stewart, a spokeswoman for WestJet.

Walker said he received an apology and other messages from the company Wednesday afternoon but it was too late to help his mother, who was already in Jamaica.

He said he booked tickets for his mother, Nellrene Walker, so she could attend her sister’s funeral in Jamaica. After paying for the tickets, he saw WestJet’s baggage policy, and called customer service, he said.

“They let me know that no exceptions were allowed,” said Jared Walker, who wanted to pay for his mother to bring a third oversized bag.

“It seems really ridiculous that this policy…only applies to two countries which happens to be tourist destinations, and that there’s a golf club exemption.”

In immigrant communities, it’s common to take goods back to their country of origin, especially when a family member has died, he said.

His mother is originally from Jamaica, and Walker was born in the United States after she moved to Florida. They both came to Canada in 1995.

He said when he originally asked why golf clubs are allowed, WestJet told him it was due to “weight distribution” and “baggage trends”.

Walker tweeted about the policy Tuesday night and said he received a message from the company around 1 a.m. saying it would allow his mother to pay to take the oversized bag.

But he said he saw the messages too late, and his mother flew out Wednesday morning.

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