WestJet is too nice. There, I am Canadian and I said it.
Before I begin to tell you about some things I think Canada’s second largest carrier is doing wrong I should preface this by saying WestJet is one of my go-to companies. I fly across the country up to eight times a year and except for one trip last year I have used the Calgary-based option every time.
As opposed to the fusty and impliable Air Canada, WestJet is the Disney-uncle of Canadian carriers. They tell jokes. They have a great stock option package for their employees. And they don’t mind if every now and then one of them channels Buster Keaton to get weary travelers through a safety demonstration.
But just like that favourite uncle, the kids have gotten wise. They know he can be gotten to and manipulated for reward. Passengers aren’t batting their eyelashes or crying over a bruised knee that isn’t really bruised, but they are gaming the system, and it seems to be happening with more frequency these days.
On a recent trip that began in an airport in eastern Canada, my wife and I were doing the drill, heading back to Vancouver. We waited for our zone, which was Zone One, to be called, and headed up to the counter. Behind us, we heard a conversation.
“Get in this line, it’s faster,” one woman said to another.
“But that’s not our zone. They called out Zone One.”
“Don’t worry, they will let us on.”
And they did.
Now, I should mention that this scenario happens on almost every flight I have been on, though not quite as willfully. I would estimate that WestJet turns the person around and makes them wait more than half the time. Perhaps as much as three-quarters of it.
But this incident I see as part of a larger problem that WestJet’s cheery staff have little chance or training in dealing with. Airports are among every person’s list of places they want to avoid and I have often marveled at the patience WestJet’s staff have shown, but as a whole they seem to be really up against it in dealing with bullies, brats, and antagonizers.
Enforcing the rules is not something at the top of the Disney uncle’s list of skills and it’s not really WestJet’s strong suit, either.
On the flight that followed I saw a man nonchalantly place his carry-on above seat number two and proceed to his seat near the back of the plane. That’s a newer one, what with expensive baggage restrictions, but I have seen it now a half-dozen times in the past dozen or so flights and at least one time I saw a person have to check their carry-one because their space was taken in a similar fashion. No WestJet staff were watching. None cared.
And then there’s the seatbelt light. As we leveled off on our flight, I was feeling the effects of the extra-large bottle of Dasanji I had downed in the security area. About to burst, I popped up as soon as the light went off and headed three rows up to the washroom. But my wait wasn’t over. Already in front of me were two men and a woman. She was, you guessed it, the same person who jumped the line when we boarded.