Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jetstar, you should be ashamed of yourself.

It had been a great day Friday. I had spoken at the closing session of the E-Tourism Conference in Wellington; the theme of my presentation was on the importance of communicating to your customer. My experience that evening when attempting to get home via budget airline carrier Jetstar not only defied customer service logic it seemed to challenge the basic fundamentals of human rights.

Disruption of travel is inevitable, aircraft are complicated mechanical things with safety having to take priority, and I get that. As the plane reversed out of the gate, we were confronted with an announcement that there had been a “computer malfunction” that required us to return to the gate.

This was approximately 7:15 in the evening, and to cut a long story short we ended up still standing in the airport at close to midnight attempting to find a solution to accommodation and alternative travel due to our flight being cancelled. The first indication of this cancellation was the sight of our flight crew heading en masse to the exit while we were left standing around in a now empty and closed Wellington terminal. When I asked where they were going one replied “listen for the announcement" without breaking his stride or looking back.

To give Jetstar their due we did eventually get a hotel and a flight out the next evening. What was hard to accept was how this was handled. After standing around for three hours in the hope they could repair the plane we were told that the flight was cancelled. At no point did anyone from Jetstar come and personally address the passengers - all we got was an occasional intercom announcement. We, as passengers, were left to console a girl sobbing her heart out that she was going to miss her connecting flight to Samoa. We foolishly promised her that Jetsar would be sure she was taken care of.

It was about 11pm, while still standing in what seemed to be an endless line of frustrated and tired people, that we saw a real person come along to address us for the first time. He was a representative of the airport apologising for our situation and ensuring we were aware it was Jetstar’s responsibility, not theirs. After numerous complaints about our basic needs he went away and returned with bottled water (at their expense, not Jetstar's as he was quick to point out).

What I can’t understand is why there were not more people to help out. This, so I have since been informed, is a common occurrence with Jetstar. Surely they should have a workable system in place by now? Is being a budget airline also justification for budget resourcing and service?

Why did we have to stand in a line for two hours to get an accommodation chit when someone could have walked the line and done the same thing in 30 minutes? At least visually it would have appeared that they were making an effort? Why did no-one come along and give us reassurance that things would be taken care of? How can any company that deals with people on a daily basis be so blatantly neglectful to the basic needs and comfort of their paying customer?

They left us wondering what was going on while the same crew who had announced on-board at 7pm that they were there to "help" had left to their meals and beds hours earlier.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain, I was informed that people who were booked on the Auckland flight back were simply told the flight was cancelled and to go away with a refund promised.

Now I’ve unloaded can I offer some solutions. Air NZ, so I’m told, on cancellation of a flight will immediately distribute taxi, meal and hotel vouchers before you even get off the plane. This says to the customer “We are looking after you and despite the inconvenience you have options”. If making your valued customers line up for hours and wait to be served by the only two check-in staff available is your thing then communicating to them costs nothing. You could have a team of on-call grumpy old tea ladies that could move up and down the line handing out stale biscuits and cold tea. At the very least customers would have someone to talk to and someone that could tell them that eventually everything will be OK.

It was OK in the end Jetstar, the shuttle driver was very helpful, the hotel staff very understanding – they even held the restaurant open till after midnight so we could eat… but your service sucked! It is embarrassing to think you are allowed to treat humans that way and still call yourself a service provider.

P.S. Jetsar, I did call your helpline to discuss my predicament. I was prompted that you had an unusually large call load and that I could leave my number and my place in the queue would not be lost, you would call me back. I’m still waiting for your call… that was four days ago.


  1. When 'circumstances beyond our control' happen, it's amazing how the attitude of the provider can count. By not fronting to their customers, Jetstar have left you thoroughly disgruntled and unlikely to ever use them again. If they'd simply sent one or two people out to talk to you, hand out some vouchers, crack a joke and explain the situation they could have smoothed things over easily.

    As service providers we know that sometimes the **** hits the fan. Nine times out of ten if you front up, 'fess up and smile, people understand and give you another chance.

    PS we only use Air NZ for domestic flights now, after hearing too many stories like this.

  2. Agree. All we wanted was someone to say "we will take care of you" . The feeling of thinking you are alone, are not getting home, are tired and hungry is bad enough. Having to stand in a queue for hours while feeling that way was degrading and disrespectful.

  3. This isn't the first story I've heard like this. Have never flown Jetstar but after endless news of their incompetance, through PEOPLE I KNOW, I wouldn't book with them. Do they know what this bad PR is doing to them??

  4. They have to know the bad press they get. the internet is full of angry and frustrated comments. Even their own Facebook page is full of negative feedback. Their Facebook and Twitter are poorly managed by an agency, not Jetstar themselves. This further proves that they issue is they simply don't care. I have left messages on their "Helpline" I have posted a service complaint on their site. I have filled out a lengthy survey. The response for my efforts as a "caring" customer is zero.

  5. Just read a post today on Idealog, by Kaleb Francis that made me re-read this. Looks like nothing has changed on the Jetstar service front in a year, Customers are now resorting to holding crew hostage and "Jetstarred" is now a verb meaning "to be crapped on". P.S A year later and I still haven't received the call. Here's Kalebs post