Canadian Rental Service

At Your Service: Lessons from Jamaica, part II

By Russ Dantu   

Features Business Intelligence

Stonewalling customers is no way to reward loyalty.


We took a vacation to Negril, Jamaica, recently. Because it was our 15th anniversary, we upgraded our seats with Westjet to premium. It cost us well over $1,000 more than flying in the regular seats that we usually choose, but we wanted to make it extra special. 

You can imagine our dismay when we received an email at 4:30 a.m. the day of our 9 a.m. flight saying the plane had been changed and we’d have to see an agent at Pearson Airport to arrange new seats. When we got there, we were told that it was a Flair aircraft that would now be taking us down and there are no premium seats on a Flair aircraft. We got regular seats like everyone else and there was no Westjet Connect available to stream something to watch on the four-hour flight.  

We boarded the plane. No free drinks, no apologies…nothing. I guess you could say these are First World problems and we were lucky to going to Jamaica when so many people are struggling these days. I get it and we are very grateful indeed. We landed and had an amazing time, but around 8:30 a.m. on the day of our departure, we received another message from Westjet saying the plane had been changed and we’d have to see an agent at Montego Bay Airport to arrange new seats…on the same Flair airplane.

We had a fairly tight connection in Toronto for our next flight to Calgary so we pleaded our case to the Westjet agent to put the special tags on our bags so that they come off the plane first.

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“No sir. This plane does not have premium seats, so no premium service is offered.”

We eventually asked to speak to a supervisor. She came over about 10 minutes after the agent told her what was happening. She was outright rude.

“The agent has told you this flight has no premium seats so you get nothing special. We have no special tags for regular flights. That’s final…move along.”

We stood and argued for another 20 minutes with her and she finally gave us the special tags and we made it to Toronto and caught our connection with about 30 minutes to spare.

A few days later, Westjet sent an email saying we deserved compensation since we lost out on the premium seats. This was exciting, as I was going to approach them since we have been loyal customers for many years. When I read further, my excitement turned into resentment. We paid over $1,000 more for premium seats and they said all we were entitled to was $564 back.

I replied to the email without accepting the offer, stating our case and showing them the email from our travel agent where she showed us regular fares and premium fares. It fell on deaf ears. Long story short, everything was online and there was no access offered to any responsible person for either myself or our travel agent.

This got me thinking about how we run our businesses. If you have long-time customers who have an issue, do you not owe it to them to seriously listen to them and try to work out a fair solution? If someone in your staff is not making them happy, should you not have an email address or phone number of a supervisor they can reach out to, if the person isn’t available? We’ve talked about this before: what is the cost of finding new customers as opposed to keeping old customers? It takes a lot of work. Bad publicity can hurt you and if enough people complain, then you will eventually be hurt.

Westjet isn’t the only airline that has customer complaints falling on deaf ears…they all do. Their way of dealing with issues is close to having this customer look elsewhere.

Take care of yourselves…and your customers!  


Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. Visit russdantu.com.


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