And make no mistake, WestJet, I love my dog. But I believe that when a company messes up, they should hear about it. And when a company provides outstanding service, they should hear about that, too.
My sister has always made a big deal about flying WestJet. She said once you travel WestJet, you'll never go back to any other airline.
Phhht, said I. There's no difference between airlines. You is crazy. It's all awful these days, like being shoved on a bus.
I have flown WestJet before, here and there, and I don't remember anything exceptional. We got on the plane, we flew, we arrived, meh.
Where WestJet shone, though, was this year, when a mega snow storm hit right before our big trip from Montreal to St. Lucia via Toronto last February 28th. They say you get to know someone really well when there's a crisis? Some truth to that, we discovered.
We were due to fly out at 7 a.m. on the 28th, first to Toronto where we'd get our connecting flight to St. Lucia at 9:30 a.m. A storm hit Toronto on the 27th. Hundreds of flights were cancelled and we grew nervous. If we were delayed, or missed our flight to Toronto, we would miss our connection to St. Lucia and have to wait another three days for the next flight. And we understood that flight was fully booked, so the entire vacation would have to be forfeited. A very expensive, long awaited holiday.
Then the snow hit Montreal and my anxiety grew.
We decided to jump in a cab and get to the airport to try and get an evening flight to Toronto, increasing our chances of making the morning flight. I had an hour to pack and shower. We didn't want to book anything over the phone until we knew for sure we could get out in the storm that night, because once we changed our reservation, it meant giving up our 7 a.m. flight to Toronto the next day and we couldn't risk that.
There were three evening flights to Toronto - 6:30, 7:30 and the last one at 8:30.
We arrived at Dorval airport after a harrowing cab ride through a howling snowstorm around 6 p.m.
The 6:30 flight was fully booked.
And this is where WestJet really stepped up. The airport was packed with people. The airport in Ottawa was shut down by the storm, and hundreds of people were stuck in the airport trying to get home after spring break. But the ticket agents were relaxed, helpful, courteous, unruffled, friendly and seemed genuinely concerned about helping everyone out.
We waited in line then asked about getting on the 7:30 flight. Yes, she said, there were seats available, but would we mind if they gave those seats to folks who had been waiting hours to get home? Well, not when she put it that way. Of course we would do that, because that meant if we were ever in a similar predicament, they'd do that for us. So perfectly reasonable! We were all in this together now!
We got seats on the last flight of the night, the 8:30 p.m. flight. Our 7 a.m. seats were now forfeited, so we watched anxiously as the snowstorm continued unabated, hoping we'd make it out.
The same agent who arranged our tickets worked the gate and announced we'd be late, but the plane was on its way, and we'd probably be on our way by 9:15. Well, 9:15 came and went with no sign of the aircraft. Only more snow, now blowing sideways. Then 10 p.m. Eventually, it did show up and we were off at 10:45 but not before de-icing. Sweet relief. And we got out the next morning, no problem.
The flight crews to and from St. Lucia were a delight. They slipped in sly comments about reading along on the emergency pamphlet "we coloured in the drawings ourselves!" and on the way home, when she sensed no one was listening to the lecture about the oxygen masks, she said "pull on the masks and fifty dollars will drop into your lap.... (silence then huge laughter) just seeing if you're paying attention" and so of course, then we were. A little bit of humour goes such a long way towards relaxing people.
We met and vacationed with a WestJet pilot in St. Lucia, there to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary. A more delightful ambassador for WestJet can't possibly exist. Brian was warm, funny, friendly, helpful and kind to every single person he met - the hotel staff, the guys selling wares on the beach, everyone. I doubt there is a single person at Sandals Le Grande St. Lucian who did not know who Brian was at the end of the week! He spoke in glowing terms of WestJet, and after our experience and listening to Brian, we understood why there is such customer loyalty.
Would that every company be run in this way. It seems so simple, yet why are there not more companies doing it?! Be respectful, put customers first, do your best...it's not rocket science.
We were not surprised to see Brian, an off-duty pilot but also a passenger like the rest of us, get up and pitch in by donning gloves and collecting garbage from passengers on the flight home. As a former manager, I know the best employees are the ones who see that something needs to be done, and they just do it. There's no ego. You don't say or think "that's not my job" or try to fob something off onto someone else. You simply take ownership of a problem and you deal with it. Most of the passengers had no clue their empty glasses and wrappers were collected by a pilot who could have been snoozing in his seat.
Near the end, the flight crew announced one of the attendants, a young man, had only been on the job for 2 days, and we all applauded as he blushed. I noticed on the way into the airport, the two female attendants put their arms around him and told him what a good job he'd done. As a mother, that made my heart swell. This is the way you raise good kids, and that is the best way to manage people.
You don't criticize, you encourage.
At every step, from the agents to the flight crew, we were greeted with smiles and even hugs. HUGS! When I said I'd never fly another airline again if I could help it, they hugged me.
WestJet, you have my loyalty for life. And you also have my heart.
PS Before I even posted this, I got an email from WestJet apologizing for the delay to Toronto and giving both of us a 50% discount on our next flight in the corridor.
Really, WestJet?! You don't have to kiss me all over. I'm already yours!