Westjet meltdown ?

Old Dec 26, 2021, 12:29 am
  #1  
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Westjet meltdown ?

I'm seeing lately a disproportionate (compared to Air Canada) number of complaints related to Westjet flight issues and disruptions in the Air Passenger Rights Facebook group and elsewhere on social media.

Add to that the never ending call centre hold times and limited self-serve options (example: cannot cancel online a flight booking that previously incurred a change)

So, what's going on with Westjet?
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 1:55 am
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I wouldnt put much statistical significance behind counting the number of rants on a Facebook group. Especially *that* Facebook group the land of hyperbole from inexperienced, infrequent fliers who all feel deeply wronged.

Issues with hold times for call center support? Yep. Its awful. Just like most airlines in North America right now, thanks to the pandemic. (Both DL and UA are in the middle of meltdowns right now due to Christmas cancellations, and wait times to reach someone are reportedly crazy long. )

Id love it if WS would answer the phone much more quickly. And if I could have more self serve options on the web. But I also realize the company, their industry and all of their people have been through unbelievable organizational and personal turmoil for 22 straight months (more so than most other industries) so Im willing to cut them some slack when things arent perfect.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 8:05 am
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Originally Posted by FlyerJ
I wouldnt put much statistical significance behind counting the number of rants on a Facebook group. Especially *that* Facebook group the land of hyperbole from inexperienced, infrequent fliers who all feel deeply wronged.

Issues with hold times for call center support? Yep. Its awful. Just like most airlines in North America right now, thanks to the pandemic. (Both DL and UA are in the middle of meltdowns right now due to Christmas cancellations, and wait times to reach someone are reportedly crazy long. )

Id love it if WS would answer the phone much more quickly. And if I could have more self serve options on the web. But I also realize the company, their industry and all of their people have been through unbelievable organizational and personal turmoil for 22 straight months (more so than most other industries) so Im willing to cut them some slack when things arent perfect.
Most people are infrequent inexperienced clients and constitute the main target market for airlines like Westjet. If you can't provide them with good customer service, you fail as an airline.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 9:10 am
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Originally Posted by hoipolloi
Most people are infrequent inexperienced clients and constitute the main target market for airlines like Westjet.
Disagree. Airlines like WestJet target passengers of all kinds but it tends to be the most inexperienced that complain the loudest, especially hiding behind the anonymity of online groups, when they encounter unexpected complications like sked changes.

Originally Posted by FlyerJ
Id love it if WS would answer the phone much more quickly. And if I could have more self serve options on the web. But I also realize the company, their industry and all of their people have been through unbelievable organizational and personal turmoil for 22 straight months (more so than most other industries) so Im willing to cut them some slack when things arent perfect.


Indeed. To expect something approaching normality in customer service in very abnormal times is frankly unrealistic.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 11:52 am
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For anyone who wants top notch service, flights that are unlikely to be cancelled and flexible schedule during these uncertain times, then this is one of the better options: https://www.flightpath.ca/#footer-forms
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 12:42 pm
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Originally Posted by aerobod
For anyone who wants top notch service, flights that are unlikely to be cancelled and flexible schedule during these uncertain times, then this is one of the better options: https://www.flightpath.ca/#footer-forms
We are MOST amused.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 3:10 pm
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Originally Posted by aerobod
For anyone who wants top notch service, flights that are unlikely to be cancelled and flexible schedule during these uncertain times, then this is one of the better options: https://www.flightpath.ca/#footer-forms
No success without ambition
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 5:00 pm
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Originally Posted by tcook052
Disagree. Airlines like WestJet target passengers of all kinds but it tends to be the most inexperienced that complain the loudest, especially hiding behind the anonymity of online groups, when they encounter unexpected complications like sked changes.

[/color]

Indeed. To expect something approaching normality in customer service in very abnormal times is frankly unrealistic.
I don't see a plausible justification for being unable to staff a remote call centre in these "very abnormal times".
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 6:45 pm
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Originally Posted by Error 601
I don't see a plausible justification for being unable to staff a remote call centre in these "very abnormal times".
Then we can agree to disagree as IME this isn't a WS-only anomaly with labor shortages seen throughout travel and many other industries as staff laid off during the lean pandemic times in 2020 & early 2021 have not returned and the pace of recruitment and training of new staff far outstripped by increased demand of sectors experiencing strong growth, well at least pre-Omicron.
WS laid off almost half its workforce (cite) and you don't just turn on a tap and replace all those staff overnight.

FWIW I've been experiencing call center delays since Spring so well know how frustrating they can be however appreciate that these are massively challenging, abnormal times.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 7:27 pm
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Originally Posted by tcook052
FWIW I've been experiencing call center delays since Spring so well know how frustrating they can be however appreciate that these are massively challenging, abnormal times.
How long should it take to onboard a call center operator?

The unemployment rate in Alberta is 7.6%, these are advertised as work-from-home positions.

The hospitality industry is struggling because they aren't paying enough to compete with other employers and in some cases covid-related subsidies. That isn't my problem.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 7:49 pm
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Originally Posted by Error 601
How long should it take to onboard a call center operator?
With training, a few weeks for new hires and returning staff to update them on the myriad of new policies and protocols however I've heard anecdotal evidence there's greater attrition of the new hires due to rude passengers so it's a vicious cycle with inexperienced travelers (or travelers inexperienced with the challenges the industry is experiencing) taking it out on call center staff who quit which in turn lengthens those hold times while costing WS the time and money training them.

I've had clients who've traveled with WS for years but never had a WS sked change struggle to understand why they've had 3 already on their Mar. 2022 trip so I don't find it hard to believe those who book direct and don't appreciate the context of the times vent after a 3+ hour wait on hold.

The unemployment rate in Alberta is 7.6%, these are advertised as work-from-home positions.
The call center positions are remote for those living within an hour of YYC (cite) so that limits the pool of potential workers.

I've offered a few citations to support my position so respectfully do you have anything beyond skepticism to reinforce yours?
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Last edited by tcook052; Dec 26, 2021 at 8:13 pm
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 9:17 pm
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I am fully aware that WestJet had massive layoffs, I doubt anyone at all is unaware of that fact. One hour from YYC is a not insignificant proportion of Alberta's population.

I don't however accept that it is impossible to hire or retain people for these positions, employers in Alberta at one time in the not so distant past had to recruit in the face of ever increasing salary demands and turn-over. If travel benefits don't have the same cachet they once did the industry has to reevaluate their compensation reflecting the presently diminished value of a customary fringe benefit.

In any event if you want a cite, try this one: https://hbr.org/2019/02/why-is-custo...its-profitable

American consumers spend, on average, 13 hours per year in calling queue with an estimated monetary cost of $38 billion. A third of complaining customers must make two or more calls to resolve their complaint. And that ignores the portion who simply give up out of exasperation after the first call. So why is customer service still so bad? Part of the answer is that a subset of companies purposely make callers jump through hoops with the hope that they’ll simply give up. When this happens, the company saves money on redress costs. At first glance, this may seem problematic: what about customer retention and brand reputation? Research shows that companies with a large market share — think airlines, cable, and internet services — can get away with bad practices because customers have nowhere else to go. This may help us understand why some of the most hated companies in America are so profitable.
Is there a particularly strong business case to aggressively staff-up at increased wages to meet demand? Probably not. Worst case scenario is the customer might be steered to a self-service option, best case scenario is they give-up entirely and their funds can languish or be forgotten in their travel bank.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 10:00 pm
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Originally Posted by Error 601
I am fully aware that WestJet had massive layoffs, I doubt anyone at all is unaware of that fact. One hour from YYC is a not insignificant proportion of Alberta's population.
It eliminates roughly two-thirds of the provincial population, that's all.

I don't however accept that it is impossible to hire or retain people for these positions, employers in Alberta at one time in the not so distant past had to recruit in the face of ever increasing salary demands and turn-over. If travel benefits don't have the same cachet they once did the industry has to reevaluate their compensation reflecting the presently diminished value of a customary fringe benefit.
So you think WS should just throw bags of money to staff up its call enter to full capacity like that Vancouver restaurant which was so desperate for dishwashers it made headlines when it offered $50K to hire staff. How realistic is throwing bags of money at front-line staff for a company in an industry going through unprecedented challenges almost 2-years into a global pandemic? Not very but that's merely MHO and apparently YMMV.

We can continue to disagree but I don't see WS as being among the worst offenders in the industry given the circumstances but rather middle of the pack for its performance to date; could it be better? Yes. Is it as bad as some make out? No.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 10:31 pm
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Originally Posted by tcook052
It eliminates roughly two-thirds of the provincial population, that's all.
Okay...

So you think WS should just throw bags of money to staff up its call enter to full capacity like that Vancouver restaurant which was so desperate for dishwashers it made headlines when it offered $50K to hire staff. How realistic is throwing bags of money at front-line staff for a company in an industry going through unprecedented challenges almost 2-years into a global pandemic? Not very but that's merely MHO and apparently YMMV.

We can continue to disagree but I don't see WS as being among the worst offenders in the industry given the circumstances but rather middle of the pack for its performance to date; could it be better? Yes. Is it as bad as some make out? No.
It really doesn't matter what I think, just don't tell me it's impossible to find people willing to answer the phone in their pyjamas.

WestJet has every right to make the business decision that they are not going to address hold times. Just don't come to the general public with a sob story about it being an unfixable and unforeseen predicament.

Service industry employers are going to be faced with significant wage pressures until the center-left of the western world reacquaints itself with austerity and covid benefits for the lowest risk members of society come to an end.
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Old Dec 26, 2021, 10:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Error 601
It really doesn't matter what I think
Finally we agree.

don't tell me it's impossible to find people willing to answer the phone in their pyjamas.

WestJet has every right to make the business decision that they are not going to address hold times. Just don't come to the general public with a sob story about it being an unfixable and unforeseen predicament.

Service industry employers are going to be faced with significant wage pressures until the center-left of the western world reacquaints itself with austerity and covid benefits for the lowest risk members of society come to an end.
Okay...
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