When there are no discernable differences in prices or physical quality, all you are left with is good ol’ customer service, right? WestJet had me convinced that they were gaining the edge in this arena…that they cared like those lovely commercial you see…I mean, they insinuated as much. However when it comes right down to it, in my humble opinion, this particular airline has become a little too comfortable in the market.
Since 2007 I have been paying (a lot of money to my little income) for my daughter to travel back and forth every month to visit her father 2 provinces away. Wanting her to have the least amount of travel time and more time to visit, I chose flying as the mode of transportation. It was mandatory that we used the Unaccompanied Minor program until she was 12 years old. This was expensive, but I understand the liabilities and could appreciate the benefits of having an airline representative accompany my daughter on and off the plane.
To anyone who hasn’t had to use this, you pay a fee, you fill out a form, you show ID and you are normally granted a gate pass to go through security with your child. You then wait until the airline is going to board the plane, that’s when the agent will take over and escort your child on/off the plane to the designated guardian on the other end. This service is running around $100/one way these days. But if your child is under 12 it is worth the peace of mind. When your child hits 12 it’s no longer mandatory, it becomes an optional service up to the age of 18.
Being that my daughter had been doing the routine for several years, we were all very comfortable that she no longer needed to use the service since we were told she could still have a parent come through security to the gate with her anyways. After all the only thing you are paying for is the point of the airline agent taking her on and off the plane to the guardian on the other end. She could handle that part just fine. It was the other part, the part that she always had a parent there for…reading the gate numbers correctly, watching for changes in gates, keeping company and warding off strangers and of course delays/ cancellations, etc. And for the record, our daughter is a very responsible, mature 15 yr old but she does have dyslexia that has caught her on more than one occasion.
For a couple more years my daughter has travelled back and forth in this fashion, never once having a serious issue with getting gate passes. Until this past month in Edmonton where a WestJet check in agent denied a pass to her father on her return trip. When my ex-husband explained we’ve always been given a pass before and asked why not now, the agent proclaimed she didn’t look like she needed her father’s assistance. My ex-husband should have explained that not all disabilities are visible, that she did require company and asked to speak with a supervisor. Instead her father was shocked and angered by the way that the agent rudely spoke to them and dismissed them.
For a moment just think really what would you do at this point? Your child has to get on that plane, it’s your only option, and guest relations has just denied you and basically told you to ‘beat it’. Now our daughter is on the inside of security, her father is on the outside waiting and wondering if the plane has taken off.
I don’t blame airlines for having rules. Security must be maintained, policy is policy…I get that. What I do have a problem with is that when I contacted the airline to complain about the manner of treatment and to find out why this happened after all these years, I got the run around. This wasn’t a security issue….oh ho no! This was an employee of the airline deciding that a 15 yr old girl didn’t need her parent with her because…..? I wanted an answer.
First I spoke with that airline the very next day stating the facts: I wanted to book my daughter’s flight, she was 15 and asked if there would be problems getting gate passes. The very helpful, polite phone representative told me that no, there shouldn’t be any problem at all. There was no guarantee because sometimes security tells the airlines to hold issuing passes during a block of time until the security issue is over. Or in the bigger airports of Toronto or Vancouver they are not issued at all, but for my locations I gave there would be no problems. In fact she went on to tell me her how her mom always gets gate passes when she herself travels. Huh!
Then I sent an email on the airline’s website. Over a week passed when I finally got a response that simply said ‘sorry you didn’t feel like you were treated well in Edmonton’ and did not apologize for their agent’s behavior or that they would look into it. Then it went on to say that if we have been getting passes all these years, we have been the exception to the rule because normally they do not give them except to parents of children or elderly or people with disabilities. The more I probed, the more the rules seemingly changed. Well children under 12, maybe you should pay for the Unaccompanied Minor program (which by the way, isn’t going to guarantee you a pass either…because guess what? It’s all at the discretion of the agent) Oh no wait, it’s due to security. No, it’s due to the high volume of passes already issued. Hmmmm.
All I want is a straight answer people…I understand that there is never a guarantee due to security issues that arise or high volume of passes issued. But can someone please tell me that if my daughter meets the criteria of being a minor and having a reading disability. I also spelled it out in black and white to her…that I am looking for recognition that our business is important to them, that they will review the unprofessional behavior of their agent, that if my daughter meets all the criteria of being allowed a parent to go in, then why was she not??? In the end I requested to be passed on to a supervisor…to which I got a snippy reply back from Beverly in 'Guest Relations' basically saying she had spent enough time with me, if I had a new question let her know but she was not going to pass me on to her manager. Nice