Pop Culture

WestJet's Bad Customer Service

By Hervé St-Louis
Oct 21, 2009 - 8:46

Companies like Westjet built their reputation and their sales on “good customer service” and are proud to share stories about how they “helped” many customers and so on. Yet when one of their employees treats a customer badly, it’s never Westjet that did it. It’s the employee. Why does Westjet accepts and claims the credits when it makes them look good and rejects the blame when it makes them look bad?


I tried to change a reservation for a flight for Calgary to Montreal, and it took as much time to get the issue resolved with Westjet’s call centre than it the flight would have taken me. I spent close to four hours on the phone with Westjet. The first operator I spoke to said I could use Westjet’s Website to fix my reservation. The problem is that it needs you to enter a user account. I tried to email myself the information to my email address, but that widget on Westjet’s Website was broken. So unless you have a profile with Westjet and can remember that password, you have to use the call centre to make changes.

I first tried the French call center. In the past I’ve waited over an hour for French service because Westjet think French-speaking customers don’t book flights after regular business hours. So service in French is severely curtailed. French service at Westjet is generally horrible. It took years for Westjet to amend its Website properly for French-speaking users. Not all the functionalities worked like in the English site. It’s hard to explain, but as a customer using the French Website in the past, it was always painful and badly written, of course. Every time I go to Westjet’s Website, I have something in the back on my mind telling me that I can’t trust the information on the French Website and that I need to verify everything in the English version.

Speaking of French, Westjet apparently is not under the Official Language Act of Canada and therefore does not have to offer French Canadian travelers the same service in French it offers to other Canadians, in English. They do try but some attendants to flights from and to Montreal often can’t even understand when you ask them for water in French. Once a passenger, sitting next to me had tell the flight attendant what “water” in French meant. I have family members that use Westjet but don't speak English. They are French speakers only which is legal in Canada. I always cringe when they board a Westjet flight because I know they may not get proper service. As a company that operates throughout Canada, Westjet should adhere to the Official Language Act of Canada. Unfortunately that will never happen with Stephen Harper and his conservatives in power.

When boarding a flight, Westjet will often use a recording to offer the security and safety instructions in French. The problem is that they run these recordings after the flight attendants have done the live demonstration in English. By the time they put that dated French recording, many passengers are coughing, talking, making noises, because for them it’s useless information they don’t understand anyway. Often, the pilots will start the motors while the French recording is playing, muffling it with the noise from the plane’s engines. The problem is that for French users, they have to listen to a safety recording while most people around them think it’s ok to not pay attention anymore. Why doesn’t Westjet run all French recordings first while passengers are still paying attention, and before the plane’s engine makes a substantial amount of noise so that by the time the live demonstration is performed, both English and French users have received professional and audible instructions in their language?

After giving up on the French call center after 20 minutes, I tried the English one. I waited an hour and 21 minutes on the line. Apparently Westjet is changing its reservation system and although one operator told me that there were several hundred people working at the call center at that point, they can’t take a phone call within an hour. Obviously after waiting over an hour on the phone  (I made the mistake of using my cell phone which means I’ve burned through my monthly plan in just one phone call), I was cranky. The operator threatened me and said that she would drop the call if I didn’t stop being cranky. I asked her name because I didn’t recall her giving it at the beginning of the phone call. She answered “You can go back waiting another hour on the line” and dropped my call. So there I was waiting again for Westjet to deign make a reservation change on my flight.

The second call, I waited more than an hour and half. The second operator was nicer (here’s Westjet taking credit for that one). Although at one point she had me pulling my own hair. The replacement flight was cheaper than my original one, yet she insisted that I had to pay more for my flight (excluding the reservation change fees, of course). I kept asking her how a flight that was cheaper than the original could cost me more. Until she figured that she had made a mistake and was quoting me the credit I was supposed to get instead. It’s been over eight hours now, and I still haven’t received my email confirmation for the change in reservation from Westjet that the operator promised I would receive quickly. I always receive flight reservations from Westjet, so blaming my spam filter won't work this time.

After what happened to me last night, I’ve decided that I would avoid Westjet flights when I can. I’ve used them in the past to go to comic book conventions, to go to conferences and business meetings, to see my friends and relatives in Montreal. They’ve had my business for years, but unless they upgrade their so-called famed customer service, I’ll avoid them like the plague.

Last Updated: May 27, 2015 - 7:10

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