WestJet says it will now offer refunds to passengers whose travel plans were cancelled because of COVID-19.

The Calgary-based airline announced Wednesday it was changing the method it would use to offer refunds for cancelled flights. It says it will now provide those affected with reimbursements directly to their original form of payment.

The company says the move is to reassure its customers in the post-COVID world.

"We have heard loud and clear from the travelling public that in this COVID world they are looking for reassurance on two fronts: the safest possible travel environment; and refunds," said Ed Sims, president and CEO of WestJet, in a statement.

All customers who had flights cancelled by WestJet and Swoop as a result of the pandemic are eligible.

"Through the efforts of thousands of WestJetters, we are confident that we can now begin providing refunds proactively. We are the first national airline in Canada to do so."

Starting Nov. 2, the company will be reaching out to affected guests but cautions there is a backlog, so it will take at least six to nine months for all the refunds to be processed.

FEDERAL WAGE SUBSIDY 'A LIFELINE'

Sims said the company would likely be in a much different situation if it wasn't for the support of all the levels of government. He said Ottawa's Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) made it possible for the company to weather the storm brought on by the pandemic.

The Canadian Transportation Agency and Transport Canada, he says, also realized early on that it would be "economically unviable" to provide immediate refunds.

"Airlines play a critical role in the travel and tourism food chain, bringing tens of millions of people to Canada each year; filling our hotels, restaurants, convention centres and tourist attractions. We reunite loved ones around the world. The greatest action the government could take as we begin to recover is to reassess the aviation infrastructure as a whole. While the industry, and Canadians, struggle to get back on their feet, WestJet have today taken a further step to accelerate our country’s economic recovery."

Further information can be found on the airline's website.