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WestJet: on the way to the dark side?

A “Change in Policy”

Our friendly Calgary based airline has always been cheerful and understanding – aligned with its loyal base who would defend it and distinguish it from Darth Vader = AC.
In a stunning departure from that mode, I fear that good old Westjet has fallen into that sinkhole euphemistically called “customer service” elsewhere.
Westjet was founded by a bunch of Calgarians as a typical “can do” western Canadian outfit that was fun to fly and easy to work with.
Now, in the nicest possible way, they are full of telling what they won’t do for you.
We were set to go to the Coast on a ticket bought months ago – around Christmastime. Of course, we bought the lowest price available.
However, we have an illness in the family. Our precious dog, Gio, is on the ropes right now and, at 13, we didn’t feel right leaving him with his [very capable] dogsitter. So, regretfully, we called to change our flight.
It turns out that in fine print buried under a gobbledygook set of revised “policy” [launched Dec of 18] they haul out this: if you buy the low priced fare, you cannot change or alter your reservation or… You lose all the money you paid.
Now I don’t know about you, but one of the distinctive aspects of the “old” Westjet was the flexibility they afforded [with some fees for changing] if you needed to move or adjust flights. Hey, WJ started on the appeal of low-priced utilitarian travel – modeled on South West in the US. Their willingness to work with you was one of the most appealing aspects of the airline.
I got to hear a few more “we don’ts” in the self-serving and promotional onslaught we had to listen to for 45 minutes trying to cancel our flight [impossible on the website on short notice] once we found this out. “We won’t … check you in by phone, etc etc]. It was wry satisfaction that they weren’t able to resell “our” seats in the short period between cancellation and departure.
Be forewarned.
I’m guessing this is in reaction to a loss WJ reported last quarter. I am often counselling companies on the financial skids. Draconian steps are often called for. We advocate a protocol: The Turnaround Prescription – harsh medicine and it works.
But care not to kill the golden goose – the value proposition that is the basis of connection to the customer is a watchword. But maybe a one quarter loss is now sufficient to hit the “all out” alarm. Maybe that was part of the reason for the sudden exit of Gregg Saretzky as CEO…I’m sure there are others.
I suppose you could say I should grow up and lose my naive belief in the inherent goodness of people. Not gonna do it…


Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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