Fair weather tweeters

January 13, 2014

WestJet decided to rub salt into my wounds today.   I had moved my departure to allow another half day in Halifax to make up for missing two days thanks to their incompetence.   OK it meant I ended up arriving in Minneapolis around midnight but it was the least I could do.   So I did a morning session, accepted a lift to the airport from Ray and arrived with plenty of time.   The queue to checkin was long so I used twitter and WestJet responded.  I suspect the first was automatic, the second involved a human of some type.  Here is the sequence, bold for me, italics for the incompetents.

  • Waiting in a WestJet queue in Halifax to check in
  • We'll get you through the line as quick as we can.
  • Hopefully you will not leave me stranded and without information like you did earlier this week
  • ​I doubt we will today.  The operation is running much more smoothy that it was last week

I did not reply, although I was tempted.  One limiting factor is a lack of knowledge of Canadian law on defamation of character.  Not that second reply is crass.  Not even an apology, just a trite we really couldn't care less statement.

One wonders why they did not have this level of response available when I was tweeting a much darker story.   Then they might have been able to use social media to help out, but they didn't.  Now the problem is over they feel able to communicate again.  This was one of the big problems last week.   The only communication was from harassed staff after a three hour plus queue, oh and the odd announcement if you were prepared to wait hours by the customer service desk where there were no chairs available.  It would have been easy to use twitter, or even the web site to keep people up-to-date and possibly answer the odd question.  They could have done oh so much more.   Here are some ideas I jotted down on the information disaster (more on process issues in a future post):

  1. When we were taken off the aircraft thanks the the crew running out of time we were all sent to customer services.   That was a half hour queue and all halifax people were told there were no flights but they hoped to lay on a rescue flight.   ​Why did I have to queue along with other people for us all to be told the same thing?   We could have been told on the plane at least or an announcement made with a note on their web site.
  2. There was no definitive statement of when we might know what was happening, the best was a vague come back in three hours suggestion.  The area being crowded I went to David's (wonderful place by the way) and got some email done.   I checked the web site regularly but nothing.  After three hours I went back to catch an announcement that there was no news just after I joined the queue.  If I had come ten minutes later I would have queued for two hours as the announcement was only made in that area and was difficult to hear anyway.  ​Why not designate different areas of the airport for different destinations?  Then people would be together and could be briefed as a group.  More meal vouchers could be brought etc.  They could even bring a drink or God help us organise a song or two, anything, just anything, to show they cared.
  3. After I left the airport all I could do is phone or check the web site.   Other's phoned for me to be told that there was no news.  Nothing on the web site to say what was happening.  Nothing to say when there would be real news.  Why not get all the people from one destination into the same hotel?   Why not update per destination on the web site?   Why kill your telephone staff by making everyone phone them for information which could as easily be published.

Now all of those use complexity principles, so I am going to write up the principles and methods to instantiate similar initiatives in the future.  One key aspect is doing things in parallel not in linear mindlessness.   Processes designed for ordinary times are not resilient in a crisis and need to be changed, WestJet simply failed to make the switch.  More on that in a future post and I haven't finished with the information problems yet but that is enough for now.

Last of three daily posts on the whole disaster here

The title of this post is deliberately ironic.



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