Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WestJet Airlines, I love you more than my dog.

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.

Huh?

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.

Wow.

Just, wow.

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!

22 comments:

Linda G. said...

Wow! Now, that is a testimonial. Go, WestJet!

Debby said...

Um...you are very lucky Buddy cannot read.

A Novel Woman said...

He's acting a bit standoffish so maybe someone tipped him off. Luckily he can be bribed with a biscuit.

Lesa said...

Surely not more than Buddy!

Next time someone asks me the best airline, I'll have your recommendation.

A Novel Woman said...

Yes, you will, Lesa. I want to snuggle WestJet in my arms every night and make it waffles in the morning. With BACON.

Debby said...

...and NOW it sounds as if you might love WestJet more than Doug!

Doug Jamieson said...

Yep, we like them too. Nice change from that other big Canadian airline where everyone gives the impression they hate their job and the company.

A Novel Woman said...

Well, I make Doug crepes and bacon. Waffles, however, require more effort. Draw your own conclusions.

Doug J., everyone was smiling at the airport and on board. There was a snowstorm, customers were late and trying to get home, but they were treated with respect and courtesy, but also warmth. It was a lovely thing to see.

flask said...

hi. i don't think you know me. i don't remember why i started reading you, but i came in once and stayed. i don't comment much.

i also do not ever fly, mostly because i am outraged at how passengers are treated by airlines.

if i ever have to get on a plane, i will think about going to some airport served by westjet. you can tell them i said so.

Lara said...

Glad to hear you had such a great experience! I wish they flew from my airport so I could get some WestJet love, too! :)

A Novel Woman said...

Flask, I hear you. Trust me. Flying WestJet is like nothing else out there.

Lara, come on up to the Great White North and get yourself some WestJet love! Bring your mom!

Debby said...

Actual conversation w/ Cara: "Korea Air gives you hot socks when you board." Me: "That's kind of cool." Cara: "Yep. Hot socks and bulgoki. Plus the attendants are SOOO polite." Me: *suitably impressed face* Cara: "Actually, their safety record is pretty *&^%$#." Me: *blinking* Cara: "But you get hot socks!"

A Novel Woman said...

HAHAHAHA!!!!

At least your toes are toasty warm as you plummet.

Joe said...

Wow, its true, I do like west jet and the friendly way they host you on their flights. And that pilot Brian sounds like an amazing guy. Way to be an ambassador.

A Novel Woman said...

Joe, they couldn't have found a better ambassador than Brian.

La Klayman said...

Hi there beautiful lady and wonderful guest Pamela, Novel Woman.

My name is La and I'm a Westet Flight Attendant. Your blog just came across my facebook as another Westjetter found it shareworthy and I was lucky enough to read it. THANK YOU for sharing your great experience. My eyes are still damp as I'm typing this. As both a very caring individual towards others, and an active animal advocate (I'm a member of Air Angels, a group of mostly Westjet volunteers who help transport dogs to safe environments ie- foster homes, safe shelters, forever homes) even the title of your blog moved me! I haven't met Buddy of course but I'm just as sure that I love him too! I'm a very firm believer that coincidences don't exist, and what we need is created as we move through life, either consciously, or not, as our level of awareness dictates. Your letter was perfect for me right now. It was a great reminder that even as we go through difficult times, be it weather issues, mechanicals, deaths in our families, hard times at home, etc. keeping a smile on our face and staying in the moment for our guests really does make a difference sometimes. This has been a very difficult last couple of months in the Canadian airline industry with the crazy weather out east and at times it felt futile to even wake up and make a go at it in the mornings. So THANK YOU!! Thank you for the time and energy you took to write this blog. Thank you for being recognized enough that it found its way to me. Thank you for loving your family and sharing that with your readers. Thank you for being a great speller. And especially, THANK YOU for being!!

Very, very sincerely,
La Klayman

ps- Brian possibly already received a kudos for this but if you could provide me with his last name I would love to send another. I checked and we have 12 pilots named Brian. 3 of whom I know and love already.

Kristin said...

I too was redirected by a WestJetter who was moved by your story. As a former WestJetter (I still am shocked that it has been 5 years since I left "home"), I still am in awe when "we" wow and amaze someone by just being ourselves.
Kudos to Brian, the YUL team & your inflight crew for making a believer out of you!

Jesse said...

Hi Pamela!
I too am a WestJetter, your blog is making it's rounds here. :)
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this post. As La alluded to we sometimes get caught up in the problems we are facing and reading your experience helps us all remember why we work here and strengthens our commitment to our guests and their experience while they are with us.

Our internal motto is: "We succeed because I care." it helps remind us that individually we have the ability to make a difference, and when everyone lives this we can make a HUGE difference. Remarkable guest experiences are not always created by getting a bouquet for a bride that forgot to order one, changing tires in the freezing rain or chasing a guest all over the country to return their cell phone (although all of those things have happened)they are created when we stop, listen, use common sense and caring.

I hope you are able to use your 50% off coupon for another relaxing little trip somewhere and we look forward to seeing you on board!

Jesse

Samantha said...

I'm a WestJetter too and this is indeed making it's rounds within the company. I'm a trainer for new call center agents and I'm going to forward this to all of them to read. Thanks for posting such a great testimonial and I'm so glad you made it time for your St. Lucia trip. When the snow is blowing, the beach is the best place to be!! :)

Denise Damaj said...

Thank you for sharing your story! As a WestJet owner, and a huge fan of the service we provide day and day out. It was so nice to read your about your experience. We truly believe at WestJet, that if we take care of our guests and our people, we in turn take care of our business.

Jessica Gauthier said...

As a Westjet Flight Attendant, I will wear my teal and blue proud today. This note has brought me to tears. This company is magical. They empower their employees to be themselves and to just make people happy. They are constantly reminding us to treat people like family and like people. I couldn't be more proud to wear this scarf today. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

A Novel Woman said...

Wow, all you WestJetters. Just saw all these comments now. Still love WestJet. I'm regretting my recent choice of booking Air Transat because they offered a direct flight to St. Lucia, but they just changed it to a connecting flight anyway. Lesson learned.