My WestJet Experience (via Twitter)

twitterI thought I’d share my recent experience with WestJet as it was one that started sour and ended sweet!

Let me start by saying that I (along with many others) have been quite frustrated by the recent “re-launch” of http://westjet.com.  That being said, I can only imagine how frustrated Westjet must be in having to field all of those calls while their online booking system is not working properly.

I was scheduled to fly from Saskatoon to Vancouver tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct 27th) on a flight that I booked some 2 months ago.  As my plans have changed due to my recent sports tour/holiday (http://sportfanconnect.com), I found myself needing to cancel my flight as I will now be leaving tommorow from Ft. Lauderdale to Vancouver.  In the past, the process has been very simple:

  1. Log into your online account
  2. Enter your confirmation number and confirm your identity
  3. Cancel your flight within 2 hours of flying and get a full credit (minus the $50 change fee – which is one of the lowest among all airlines)
  4. If that fails, you could always call the 1-888-WESTJET call centre and, in most cases, have your problem solved within 5 minutes.

Today, hwestjetowever, that was not the case.  Being accustomed to trying to solve my own problems online…I first went to the website to try to cancel my flight.  Not possible at this time.  So, I resorted to Plan B and called the 1-888 # and was informed via prerecorded message that the average wait time is now “60 minutes”!!! No, not 6 minutes…….6-0 minutes!!  So, not thinking there were any other options, I decided to wait it out.

I made it to about the 30 minute mark when my call was finally answered……only to be told that the person I was talking to couldn’t help me because my ticket was booked before the did the website re-engineering.  So, back on hold I go ;-)  Another 30 minutes later, I hear silence (usually a good sign because I think it means that someone might pick up on the other end).  But, this was not the case……..CALL DISCONNECTED!!!! (Note the all caps which translates to….not impressed!!)

So, once calmed down, I started to weigh my options:

  1. Get back on the phone and wait it out
  2. Track down an email address so I can at least have record that I was trying to cancel my flight….but couldn’t reach anyone (that proved to not be an option as I couldn’t find an email address on their website)

At this point….I didn’t like my options.  Then, it hit me……………why not try Twitter???  They seem to be engaged in conversation with most people that try to talk to them on Twitter.  So, it was worth a shot!

I went straight to my Seesmic Desktop application and entered the following message:

trevorturnbull: @westjet tried calling in to cancel my flight tomm…on hold for 1hr then got disconnected. Cant find an email address on your website

Here was the Direct Message reply (approx 10 minutes later):

Westjet: Email us at twitter@westjet.com and we’ll see what we can do to help

I promptly followed up with an email explaining my situation as well as a copy of my email confirmation with the reservation number and all my contact info. Here is a screenshot of the conversation that followed on Twitter.

Btwitter_westjeteing in the business of social media consulting, I come across examples of best practice all the time.  But, when you have a first hand experience like I did today, a person really starts to understand the power of social media. I think the biggest lesson learned from this is that it is one thing to say you “do” social media as a company, but it is another thing to actually do it well!  This is a shining example of how to do it right.  Westjet is not just using a social tool like Twitter to broadcast messages in the way that traditional media works.  Rather, they are taking the time to engage in the two-way conversation made possible through social media.

I have always been one to check Westjet first when looking to book flights.  My previous experiences have all been good, so, I’ve never had any reason to jump ship (unless they don’t happen to fly to my preferred destination….but that is becoming few and far between nowadays with the addition of many US flights now offered by Westjet.

I’m sure there are many people that have felt frustrated with Westjet over the past few weeks. We are all so used to technology just “working” that when it fails, we don’t know what to do with ourselves! Westjet’s use of Twitter is a great example of how all companies/brands/teams/etc can use social media to create engaging experiences that result in loyal customers.  I’d like to see a radio ad or brochure do the same thing ;-)

The only thing I would suggest to them is that they more prominently promote their Twitter account through all of their other marketing channels.  I make fun of traditional media…….but the reality is, you need to combine your efforts in order to reach as many people as possible.  Therefor, cross promotion between their TV, Radio, Print, Online and Social marketing is key for maximum success.  After all, I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have thought to ask their question on Twitter like I did today.  But clearly, THEY SHOULD KNOW THIS!  And, the first step is educating people in as many ways as possible.

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13 Responses to My WestJet Experience (via Twitter)

  1. Genevieve November 29, 2009 at 11:04 pm #

    Thank you thank you thank you!
    I had been on the West Jet line for over 2.5 hours…desperate to cancel a flight when I started googling…looking for a way to find their email address…and came across your blog.
    I had never had any interest in Twitter…until tonight! Finally got in touch with an agent via twitter and email…and hopefully the situation will be taken care of tomorrow.
    Again…thank you :)

  2. Maggie December 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    I’m a neophyte with the Twitter stuff. I’m having a terrible time with a request for a wheelchair on a WestJet flight…They’ve told me I have to stand in line to get a wheelchair. I can’t stand for long periods and it’s over Xmas. I’ve waited on the phone for hours. Please tell me how I could contact them. I’m signed up for Twitter but have never used it. Can anyone help me?

  3. tturnbull December 11, 2009 at 8:43 pm #

    @Maggie
    Hey Maggie,

    I can’t guarantee that Westjet will help you out with your concern. But, I have had success contacting Westjet via Twitter. And, since I wrote the article….I have heard from a number of other people that have had success as well.

    Since you now have a Twitter account, all you have to do is send a Twitter message to @westjet and communicate your concern in 140 characters or less (sometimes hard…I know). They are very responsive as it is clear they have hired employees to monitor messages sent to their account and they are usually pretty timely with their responses.

    If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to email me directly.

    Trevor Turnbull
    trevor@trevorturnbull.com

  4. Katie December 25, 2009 at 6:45 pm #

    Pretty impressed w the WestJet happy ending. Both w WestJet and how you figured out how to connect to them. I am one of those parents that would not have known to check Twitter. But I know now! cause of your site Trev. Thanks for keeping me current.

  5. Dave January 7, 2010 at 7:40 am #

    I spent 6 hours trying to book a flight with a credit.The first agent told me i couldn’t do it over the phone.Gave me wrong information about the flights available and then hung up.I cannot believe how poor the service was.

  6. Linda James May 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    l travelled from Hamilton to Calgary, and on to Saskatoon on
    Arriving in Saskatoon, l found my luggage was soaking wet and smelled like vinegar…………..l contacted a West Jet attendant, and we both opened the case to find that everything inside was soaking wet, and stinking of whatever, ‘vinegar, alcohol ??’ they told me to replace the case, and to get all the clothing dry cleaned, and to bring them the bills.
    l did not have time to get my clothes dry cleaned, l spent all that evening washing and drying them at the Hotel………..(something you didnt have to pay for)l did go and purchase a new suitcase.
    When l took the receipt to the counter the same lady said they would give me a credit of $200.00 to use on another flight. BUT nobody told me that l have to use this in 90 days ????
    l am not happy with this, l feel that my trip was cut short for all the hassle l went through, which was no fault of mine, and now it looks like l will not get compensated, as l have no plans to fly anywhere………..Linda James

  7. Geo March 18, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It's fine that you used Twitter as a “work around” but I don't believe that should lead to praise. The fact you needed the work around in the first place does not bode well for the airline. Kind of like saying, even though the establishment did not have an accessible front door, you found it pleasing that you were able to find the back door.

  8. A Aly November 8, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    To every body that wants to cancel his flight there is a lot easier way to do so , my friend and I just did it now , call the canadian number (if u r in canada) here is the number 4034442586 , they are very friendly and amazingly fast and professional , just leave a message and they will call u back and refund ur money after asking you for your credit card number ,hope it helps.

  9. Lucienne November 18, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    HI Trevor: Just to let you know that WestJet Customer Service was excellent, after the problems we experienced, we received a credit towards a next flight and a personal
    letter from Guest Services. We are impressed and happy with the outcome of our dilemma.
    Sincerely, Lucienne

  10. Trevor Turnbull November 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Hi Lucienne,

    Great to hear….Westjet customer service to the rescue again :)

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