Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It (finally) pays off to complain

Last March, I had a nightmare travel experience for work when trying to fly from Montreal to Toronto via WestJet. I arrived at the airport at 3:30 pm for my 4:30 pm flight only to discover that it was delayed by 45 minutes. Granted, Montreal had had a fair bit of snow that morning so I could understand that the airline was trying to recover from the earlier delays caused by the weather. However, my 45-minute wait time turned into 7 hours of boredom and frustration at the Trudeau airport.

While Air Canada and Porter were announcing flight after flight to Toronto, no WestJet flights were leaving. It turns out that not a single flight via WestJet had left that day from Montreal to Toronto as the weather system had caused emergency landing across the Eastern sea board, and WestJet was now missing planes and crews to keep up with their passengers.

I completely understand that weather is not in the hands of the WestJet people, but their communication to passengers is. Knowing that the other flights had not taken off that day, my flight should have never been shown as "on time" when I checked in online mid-day and I should have been given a realistic wait time. Later in the evening, my flight was actually cancelled and I discovered this when walking by an airport digital schedule board and realizing that my flight was missing. Not cancelled - just missing from the giant board. There was no passenger announcement made - my flight simply disappeared. I then joined a 60 minute line-up to be rebooked onto the 10:00 pm flight. My entire evening was wasted at the airport and by the time I reached Toronto, I was frazzled and exhausted.

I was promised compensation by the WestJet agent who rebooked my flight, but weeks went by and I didn't hear from them. I then called WestJet and was told that there agents on the phone only take reservations & manage bookings - they do not handle complaints! If I wanted to make a complaint or inquiry into my compensation, I needed to send an email. So I sent the email describing my ordeal only to have an automatic response stating that it takes the customer service agents 6-8 weeks to respond to email. Seriously?

Dear WestJet,
What's the point of having a phone line that won't give service or a convenient email address that is not conveniently quick?

On the weekend, I finally received a response to my email after 45 days.

"As a goodwill gesture and a one time exception" WestJet credited me $150 as compensation for my ordeal. I'll take it! In fact, I already used it online and combined it with a promo code so I'll be going to Toronto next month for my Dad's birthday. What would normally be a $325 expense will be $82 out of my own pocket. Not free, but it does make up for the loss of my time and sanity.



  1. Good for you! You are motivating me to write a letter to the hotel we booked for our honeymoon. We got bumped to another hotel and weren't given the honeymoon package we asked for online. We kinda put it behind us because this other hotel ended up being better anyway but heck, I think I'm gonna write a letter and see what happens!

  2. Wow! That sounds awful. I'm so glad that you got something back for that wasted time and frustration!

  3. @Miss BBW - definitely take the 15 minutes necessary to write the letter! At least you'll be notifying the hotel that their service was subpar and as honeymooners, you should have been given top notch treatment. I hope something good coems your way too!

    I just read an interesting column from REDBOOK magazine about how it pays to compliment companies for good service. I'll post it this week as I think there could be a lot to gain from becoming a brand ambassador - not just financially, but it spreads cheer to let others know they are doing a great job.