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WS New Year’s problems: ground crew no-show to blame?

WS New Year’s problems: ground crew no-show to blame?

Old Jan 1, 18, 8:44 pm
  #1  
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WS New Year’s problems: ground crew no-show to blame?

The past few days have been an utter meltdown for WS at their YYC hub — leading to major problems across their entire network. (And a 767 going mechanical at LGW made it that much worse.)

Lots of cancellations. OTP has been utterly dismal (or, more likely, non existent). Passengers - especially those with connections - have been stranded all over the place.

Officially, it was due to weather — the extreme cold causing frozen water lines plus creating major delays in baggage loading/offloading. There were also reports of seemingly never-ending delays for de-icing at YYC.

Per a thread on another forum, though, weather was only part (and maybe only a small part) of the problem.

That discussion indicates that - over the New Year’s weekend - upwards of half of WestJet’s Calgary ground crew either called in “sick” or no-showed.

Only half their staff showed up, at an absolute peak travel volume period, in extremely challenging conditions.

If that’s the case, half of their crew should get bonuses — and half should get canned.

A quick search brings up some Twitter chattet that seem to show they may have had similar walk out issues at other airports on NY Eve. (Those were unclear, though, and may have been referring to YYC too)

Can anyone “in the know” confirm? Or is it just hyperbole from frustrated holiday travelers?

This holiday week has no doubt been insane, stressful, horrible and thankless for many WestJet staff. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for them to manage through those circumstances. To all of you (well, who showed up): thank you, and hang in there.
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Old Jan 1, 18, 10:24 pm
  #2  
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Originally Posted by FlyerJ View Post
If that’s the case, half of their crew should get bonuses — and half should get canned.
Right. I'm sure getting rid of half the employees would really improve the experience.

Originally Posted by FlyerJ View Post
Can anyone “in the know” confirm?
Anyone "in the know" would be among those fired if they said anything about it on a public forumn.
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Old Jan 1, 18, 11:04 pm
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Although there have been challenges relating to crew hitting max time, deicing fluid and higher than average sickness rates (but I know of a lot of family and work colleagues who shouldn’t be spreading their germs around in work over last couple of weeks), I think there is plenty of hyperbole out on social media. The stats for yesterday are completion rates of 93% across the network and A15 around 40%, both figures that are not something to be proud of, but not untypical of weather challenged operations.

Today so far the figures are 95% completion (one in twenty flights cancelled), A15 just over 50%, so still not very good, but improving. Both YYC and YYZ have been very challenged, but I can only see one flight out of 122 departing YYC cancelled today and 4 cancelled yesterday, YYZ has 13 cancellations today out of 123 flights. System wide today there were 749 flights scheduled and we will likely end up with 36 of those cancelled.
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Last edited by aerobod; Jan 1, 18 at 11:17 pm
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Old Jan 2, 18, 1:14 am
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To me, one of the major factors that distinguishes a good airline from the rest is how they manage and recover from IRROPS. Not all are the same, of course, but as an industry, the performance on both counts is dismal. One may ponder why this is. It seems to me that there is a multitude of reasons, which fall into two broad categories: the systemic ones, and the self-inflicted ones.

Looking at the systemic ones, one quickly realizes that the system is designed to operate at maximum efficiency when everything is going according to plan. Aircraft are fully utilized; crews are fully utilized; ground resources are fully utilized; load factors are high; turnaround times are tight, etc. This means that when IRROPS happen the capacity in the system to recover is close to zero, meaning recovery is slow and painful. Again, why is this? The simple answer is that the majority of customers have repeatedly shown, through their buying habits, that they are unwilling to pay for capacity in the system to handle IRROPS. Same as seat size and pitch. When 90% of customers make their choice based solely on price, the entire 100% get squeezed into tiny seats.

The self-inflicted reasons are the real issue, at least to me from the point of view of a customer. There are a gazillion moving parts to an operating airline, and another gazillion moving parts to the overall system. I don't think it's fair to blame a few ground crew who called in sick. It's far more complicated than that. What gets me going, however, is how little preparation and backstopping is done by the airlines in advance of an impending disruption. I suspect Mr/Ms Aerobod working on the inside might think differently, but from the customer's eyes looking inward, the airlines are by and large completely oblivious to IRROPS until it really hits the fan, then they go into scramble mode. The one example that makes me boil is when the weather services have been reporting a major winter storm approaching for three solid days, and when it finally hits and cancellations abound, there are still not enough people on duty to answer the phone! Such a dead easy problem to fix, yet it persists. Similarly, when they get aircraft and crews out of position, crews time out, etc there seems to be little or no advance preparation to have people on standby, so chaos ensues.

But I can also tell you from my own experience that two things really matter when I'm caught up in IRROPS: 1. respond to me promptly one way or another; 2. the attitude and tone of voice of the customer-facing staff during IRROPS can make all the difference. Even if they can't do much in light of the systemic constraints, if they at least sound interested and appear as if they're trying to help it takes a lot of the pain away, as opposed to being blown off and told to phone a toll-free number that no one answers.

My own limited experience with WS during IRROPS is that they are better than AC. However, anecdotally I would say that in the last year or two the gap seems to be closing.
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Old Jan 2, 18, 5:09 am
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Originally Posted by Sopwith View Post
My own limited experience with WS during IRROPS is that they are better than AC. However, anecdotally I would say that in the last year or two the gap seems to be closing.
In which direction? AC improving or WS getting worse? (My guess is the latter)
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Old Jan 2, 18, 5:57 am
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WS getting worse

That's easy.............WS is getting worse, and (IMO) AC has improved!
I had two significant delays and one WS cancellation last month. Their tariff conditions alllow WS to define whether its controllable, so WS blames the weather and voila, no compensation! The cancellation (at YYZ) was esp. frustrating as we arrived at 17:15 and were offered the "next" flight at 07:00 am the next morning. Hundreds in line at customer service for a new bp - so the wait was over one hour. Meanwhile, AC flights continued to operate normally and WS declined to endorse their tix. over to WS - citing the fact our itin incl. a trans-border segment?
I am not surprised about the no shows. On our RSW flight, the FA told me that WS introduced a "new" inflight service and every FA is upset about it and complaining. FlyerJ's suggestion that they be "fired" is laughable. WS is facing a very energetic CUPE organizing campaign. Firing one FA is all CUPE needs to win! As a result, Saretsky won't fire anyone, and I hope FlyerJ offers free koolaid to any FTs who wants to drink it!
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Old Jan 2, 18, 12:29 pm
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Originally Posted by Antonio8069 View Post
That's easy.............WS is getting worse, and (IMO) AC has improved!
Yes. That is an accurate statement. It is probably going to continue down that route for a little bit longer. WS is having growing pains becoming a "real airline" and AC is discovering they have a "real airline" as a competitor now and have to up their game.

WS getting wide-bodies, interlining, having a joint-venture with Delta, going after business travels is all about them growing up. What was acceptable IROP customer service for flying people down to Vegas is not acceptable for most business travelers. They are adjusting. The problem is their not their yet.

What I think WS has going for it with IROPs:
- they don't overbook (there is always going to be some space capacity on every flight to put IROP passengers on standby).
- their employees are generally happy and friendly in contrast to be grumpy (they are working on changing that, having unions will speed up the transition to grumpy staff).
- having lots of the same type of aircraft should make IROP scheduling simpler
- AC has a reputation for being difficult to deal with. The reality is it is less being difficult and more of being inconsistent. WS still have team plays and a consistent feel.


Where they have problems:
- they don't work with others as well as they should. Once they get this joint-venture with Delta sorted out that should improve. At that point they make the same money if they keep passengers on their own metal or move them over to Delta and run through a Delta hub. The Delta hubs network from a weather and congestion perspective is better than United.
- that 767 fleet is small and not that reliable. One of those birds has a problem and their screwed.
- there IT system is lacking. AC IT systems handles IROP. At WS you have to call in to a call centre that is probably stressed.
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Old Jan 2, 18, 1:09 pm
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I can't speak for YYC, but plenty of flights on multiple airlines have been impacted by weather this week at YYZ. AC has been issuing pretty well daily travel advisories for YYZ due to extreme cold and/or strong winds. Lots of people off sick here too. There are many delays and cancelations.
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Old Jan 2, 18, 2:25 pm
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Originally Posted by aerobod View Post
Today so far the figures are 95% completion (one in twenty flights cancelled), A15 just over 50%, so still not very good, but improving. Both YYC and YYZ have been very challenged, but I can only see one flight out of 122 departing YYC cancelled today and 4 cancelled yesterday, YYZ has 13 cancellations today out of 123 flights. System wide today there were 749 flights scheduled and we will likely end up with 36 of those cancelled.
Interesting! I thought YYC was WestJet's second largest hub after YYZ, but it would seem in terms of daily departures (not total destinations or total seats) they are pretty close?
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Old Jan 2, 18, 2:50 pm
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Originally Posted by Antonio8069 View Post
That's easy.............WS is getting worse, and (IMO) AC has improved!
I had two significant delays and one WS cancellation last month. Their tariff conditions alllow WS to define whether its controllable, so WS blames the weather and voila, no compensation! The cancellation (at YYZ) was esp. frustrating as we arrived at 17:15 and were offered the "next" flight at 07:00 am the next morning. Hundreds in line at customer service for a new bp - so the wait was over one hour. Meanwhile, AC flights continued to operate normally and WS declined to endorse their tix. over to WS - citing the fact our itin incl. a trans-border segment?
I am not surprised about the no shows. On our RSW flight, the FA told me that WS introduced a "new" inflight service and every FA is upset about it and complaining. FlyerJ's suggestion that they be "fired" is laughable. WS is facing a very energetic CUPE organizing campaign. Firing one FA is all CUPE needs to win! As a result, Saretsky won't fire anyone, and I hope FlyerJ offers free koolaid to any FTs who wants to drink it!

We have no International/Transborder IROP agreement with AC. We can only use AC as a reprotection option during an IROP when a guests booking is entirely made up of domestic flight segments.
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Old Jan 2, 18, 2:55 pm
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Originally Posted by YXUFlyboy View Post
Interesting! I thought YYC was WestJet's second largest hub after YYZ, but it would seem in terms of daily departures (not total destinations or total seats) they are pretty close?
For over a year now, YYC and YYZ have bounced backwards and forwards as the largest WS hub in terms of departures, in time I expect YYZ will pull ahead. Both are now regularly above 120 departures per day, YVR is around 80 and YEG around 70. These 4 airports account for more than 50% of the approximately 750 daily departures, over the 110 airports served.
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Old Jan 2, 18, 5:30 pm
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AC denies request to endorse ticket to AC

Originally Posted by WJter View Post
We have no International/Transborder IROP agreement with AC. We can only use AC as a reprotection option during an IROP when a guests booking is entirely made up of domestic flight segments.
That was how it was explained by the supervisor. Having said that, I have no idea how a passenger is supposed to know which rules apply when a flight gets cancelled? I travel a lot, and certainly I had no idea the rules differ if I am on a transborder versus domestic itinerary.
I also don't think Transport Canada knows how these rules affect Canadians. IMO WS uses every angle to limit its compensation. I have not seen that behaviour from AC? At least not yet!
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Old Jan 2, 18, 9:25 pm
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In high school chemistry we learned about thermodynamics. "What does thermodynamics have to do with WestJet?", I hear you cry. Well, let me explain.

The second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy of the universe is increasing. I never really understood entropy. At the time it was explained as "randomness", as in the randomness of the universe is increasing. I found this to be an abstract concept, fuzzy and unclear. As learned later, it isn't randomness at all, it's really uniformity. The uniformity of the universe is increasing. Again, I never completely understood the concept until I ran across this definition: If you have a barrel of sewage and add a teaspoonful of wine, you have sewage. If you have a barrel of wine and add a teaspoonful of sewage, you have sewage. In other words, it all tends toward one state: sewage.

Think of WestJet, which was once a teaspoonful of wine. The airline industry is a barrel of sewage by almost any measure. WestJet has been poured into the barrel, and is trending towards being the same as everything else: sewage. WestJet is the victim of entropy. I hope it's not too late to reverse the trend.
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Old Jan 2, 18, 10:47 pm
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So my 14:00 flight was delayed in YUL on Sunday. At the gate the sign said on time, but then they made an announcement now 16:00. They started re-booking people with connections. I asked to be put on AC, they suggested the Gold desk would be faster, so I went over to AC and they were very nice, and told me their 14:00 was delayed till 15:15 and I could easily get on it. It was 13:55, but they had not closed it. In the 35 minutes it took for WS to book me on AC the flight closed. So AC said get them to put you on the 4p and we will move you once you are in the system. That's exactly what happened. I made the MLL, and the AC flight arriving in Toronto at 16:30. I checked the flight status of my original booked WS flight it left YUL at 18:03 and arrived YYZ at 19:30. I was 90 minutes into my day in the office before the flight got here. The WS flight before mine was 90 minutes late leaving YUL. and the YUL YQB flight was cancelled altogether. Sunday was not a good day for WS. I felt sorry for the people sitting around the gate believing they would be leaving in a few hours, and not knowing WS will book an irop over to AC on a domestic flight.
MY flight had 32 empty seats. Because people had been moving around and a bunch got out on the 13:00.

Last edited by yul36; Jan 2, 18 at 10:54 pm
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Old Jan 3, 18, 12:38 am
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Originally Posted by WJter View Post
We have no International/Transborder IROP agreement with AC. We can only use AC as a reprotection option during an IROP when a guests booking is entirely made up of domestic flight segments.
Clearly that needs to be fixed. There are far to many smaller stations in Canada that receive very limited service. Not being able to protect onto the only other airline serving that destination when coming off a trans-boarder or international flight is not reasonable.
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