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Learning from WestJet

I had not heard about WestJet, till I read about them in Reader’s Digest. WestJet is a maverick low cost carrier born in 1996 with 3 planes and 220 employees and serviced 5 western cities. WestJet is a low cost airline or carrier that was profitable from year one. In 1996 from US$2.1 million to 51.1 million in 2003 and stock is up 5X from it’s IPO in 1999. As one blogger Robert Patterson puts it, ” An airline that has a heart as well as low fares “. There are many instances that support this fact, hostesses rocking babies and some racing to give left behind cell phones. Its the customer experience that mainline companies find difficulty replicating. If you ask the CEO he will say it is “our people” and “WestJest attitude”. What is WestJet Attitude ? A sense of humour that permeates everything we do. Happy employees and customers will ultimately create positive financial results. Enthusiatic workers who will go the extra mile to make guests happy. You empower employees, treat them as equals, latitude to think and act for themselves. If you are not having fun, you will be propbably fired. Real stories that are a result of this WestJest attitude follow.

A woman flying on WestJet arrived at her destination and found that her baggage had not arrived. In tears, she explained to WestJet ground staff that she was getting married that afternoon and her wedding dress was in the luggage that had not arrived. Without missing a moment they put her in a taxi, sped her to downtown and bought her $2280 wedding dress and footed the bill.

Another is an experience from Karen Phelan.

I flew to Edmonton with WestJet for the first time during the break. I had a great week. I traveled through the mountains, went shopping, saw wildlife and all that fun stuff. On the way home, I had a stopover in Toronto for a few hours. As I was getting ready to board my next flight to Moncton, I became very ill and unable to breathe. I was also traveling by myself. The staff at WestJet were absolutely wonderful in comforting me, accommodating me etc. As I was in the airports infirmary, the nurse told me that I could not go home as I did not have medical clearance. I know it seems weird – but I now understand that if I was up in the air and something happened to my breathing, what could they do! So it was best that I didn¡¯t fly that night.

WestJet provided me a room with a king’s sized bed, transportation too and from the airport, food vouchers valuing $16 and a free flight home to Moncton the following night providing I was well enough to fly. All this happened within an hour of becoming ill. No questions asked and no hassles. I even had WestJet staff handing me their own personal cell phones to make calls home because my cell had died earlier. When I boarded the shuttle bus to go to the hotel for the night, a WestJet representative gave me a big hug and wished me luck. She had stayed with me the whole time. On the flight home, I had a front row seat with the entire row to myself and my luggage was already in Moncton waiting for me. How did I know this? A WestJet representative called me at the hotel to tell me.

I will travel with them again and again – no questions asked. They were amazing – and they were complete strangers. I was quite happy to get home. WestJet made it much easier for me while I was away by myself. My friends and family at home were just as understanding and bent over backwards to help me during this crappy time.

I just thought that this tied in nicely with our last theme of how companies are getting too big and not caring enough about their customers. I think WestJet has it together and I want people to know it.

Karen M. Phelan

WestJet took nearly $24 million of shareholder capital and turned it into a company worth over $1.25 billion. Scores of executives ask what is the secret of its success. Says Don Bell ” We just tell them that hiring the right people, having fun, and treating the customer as you’d want to be treated is what we’re about. But very few companies seem to get it. “

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