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UPDATE: WestJet changes course, agrees to rebook flights for family of murder victim Ashley Simpson
Ashley Simpson. Supplied
John Simpson said his family is not being allowed to rebook flights out west so his family can attend the sentencing of the man who murdered their daughter Ashley. Supplied

This story has been updated from the original article, which appears in the Feb. 15 edition of The Lake Report.

 

The family of Ashley Simpson will be able to attend a sentencing hearing for the man responsible for the St. Catharines woman’s death after a change of heart by a major Canadian airline.

“Last night, WestJet called me and booked all the flights for June 11,” Ashley’s mother, Cindy, said Thursday after receiving the news from WestJet that the flights had been rebooked.

“They apologized and sent condolences.”

The family had been booked to be on a flight from Toronto to Calgary and then on to Kelowna, B.C.

The flights were originally booked via the travel site FlightHub and it said any changes were WestJet’s responsibility.

WestJet had initially refused to rebook those flights as it could not find the booking, said Madison Kruger, a strategist with WestJet media relations.

“There was a bit of confusion,” Kruger said, adding that the airline needed what is called a “PNR (Passenger Name Record) number” that is created when a flight is booked.

“We were looking up names but it was difficult to identify which was correct,” Kruger said. 

Once the airline had the PNR number, the situation was resolved, she added.

“Once our guest services team had that information, we made the change.”

Cindy was glad the situation was resolved.

“So much of my stress has been relieved,” she said.

in late October last year, Derek Favell pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the disappearance and death of Ashley.

She vanished near Salmon Arm, B.C., in 2016 and her remains were found in 2021.

Favell was due to be sentenced on Feb. 15 after two days of hearings but the hearings were postponed until June, pending the completion of a Gladue Report.

Such reports “contain information on the unique circumstances of Aboriginal people accused of an offence or Aboriginal offenders,” Legal Aid Ontario states on its website. Courts can refer to the report’s findings in determining sentences for offenders. 

The family hopes that with Favell’s sentencing, they will finally be able to move another step forward in their lives and gain some sense of closure.

Ashley’s father, John Simpson, who lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake, was not going to attend.

He has stated that seeing Favell found guilty and visiting the spot where Ashley was found brought him enough closure.

“He will pay for his crime, I’m sure of that,” John Simpson wrote in a post to the Justice 4 Ashley Simpson Facebook page. “I need not waste anymore of my time on him.”

FlightHub, meanwhile, said it was not its responsibility to rebook the flight.

“FlightHub strictly follows the rules and regulations outlined by the airlines,” said David Masanga, vice-president of customer service for FlightHub, adding that as “basic fare tickets” no modifications were permitted.

“Our hands are tied in this matter and we are bound by the airline’s policies,” Masanga said.

He added that the company understood what the family was going through.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the Simpson family for the loss of Ashley,” he said. “We understand the gravity of their situation and the importance of attending the sentencing hearing.”

Members of Simpson’s family have been flying back and forth between Niagara and B.C. with the help of donations from supporters in both Niagara and Salmon Arm.

The Simpson family is still welcoming donations to support their travels back and forth from British Columbia.

The family will accept Air Miles and any donations to their GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/ashley-simpsons-family.

hutton@niagaranow.com

Original Story:

The pathway to justice for the family of a St. Catharines woman who was murdered in British Columbia by her boyfriend took another unwanted turn earlier this week when a travel booking site refused to change the family’s travel plans.

Members of Ashley Simpson’s family – mother Cindy Simpson, daughters Amanda and Amy, as well as several nieces and nephews – intended to attend the sentencing of Derek Favell, who pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the disappearance and death of Ashley in late October last year.

Favell was due to be sentenced on Feb. 15 after two days of hearings but the hearings were postponed until May, pending the completion of a Gladue Report.

Such reports “contain information on the unique circumstances of Aboriginal people accused of an offence or Aboriginal offenders,” Legal Aid Ontario states on its website.

Courts can refer to the report’s findings in determining sentences for offenders. 

The family had hoped that with Favell’s sentencing, they would finally be able to move another step forward in their lives and gain some sense of closure.

Ashley’s father, John Simpson, who lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake, was not going to attend.

He has stated that seeing Favell found guilty and visiting the spot where Ashley was found brought him enough closure.

He will pay for his crime, I’m sure of that,” Simpson, the father, wrote in a post to the Justice 4 Ashley Simpson Facebook page. “I need not waste anymore of my time on him.”

The postponement of the hearing – it will now be held in May – meant new travel plans for the family had to be arranged.

They had been booked to be on a WestJet flight from Toronto to Calgary and then on to Kelowna, B.C. via WestJet.

The flight had been booked through the travel website FlightHub.com. 

“We got a phone call (Tuesday) morning (from WestJet) telling me they weren’t going to refund the tickets,” Simpson told The Lake Report on Tuesday afternoon. “WestJet said it was FlightHub’s responsibility and FlightHub said it is WestJet’s.”

When he pressed the issue, the airline said it was “not their problem,” he added. 

On Wednesday morning, FlightHub had reached out to Simpson to say the company would not rebook the flights, which set the family back close to $1,500.

Cindy Simpson, meanwhile, said the family had submitted a letter to the airline from the Crown counsel who prosecuted the case outlining why the change was being made.

“WestJet said they didn’t receive the letter,” Simpson, the mother, said. “We were told, your seats are still booked.”

When contacted by The Lake Report, a spokesperson for WestJet said the airline staff could not locate the Simpsons’ booking in their reservation system without a “PNR (Passenger Name Record) number” that is created when a flight is booked.

“We would like to assist, however without the required information to find their reservation we are unable to,” said Madison Kruger, a strategist with WestJet media relations.

An inquiry to Kruger regarding the letter was left unanswered.

A representative from FlightHub, Ayob Cesar, responded to inquiries from The Lake Report and said the company would look into the situation and requested information on the booking.

Ashley Simpson vanished in April 2016 and was missing for five years until her remains were found in a remote area of B.C. in 2021.

Since then, members of Simpson’s family have been flying back and forth between Niagara and B.C. with the help of donations from supporters in both Niagara and Salmon Arm.

The Simpson family is still welcoming donations to support their travels back and forth from British Columbia.

The family will accept Air Miles and any donations to their GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/ashley-simpsons-family.

hutton@niagaranow.com

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