Monday, March 1, 2010

#1121 Don't fly Jetstar

Before I get started on this rant, and yes, it is going to be a rant, let me first point out that I was in the wrong. I take full responsibility for my actions. I arrived at the Jetstar counter two minutes after the check in for my flight had closed.

I spent the weekend visiting my family in Christchurch. Mum booked my flights for me, arriving on Thursday night with Pacific Blue, leaving on Sunday afternoon with Jetstar. We stayed in Diamond Harbour on Saturday night and drove back at lunchtime, stopping only once along the way to speak with a police officer who had cordoned off the road due to the Tsunami warnings.

While driving to the airport, Mum turned to me and said that she couldn't remember which airline she'd booked me back on. She said it was definitely Air New Zealand or Jetstar, but she'd forgotten which one. All we knew for certain was that my flight left at 3:05pm.

I arrived at the airport at approximately 2:27pm, grabbed a trundler, put my bags on, then walked into the terminal, heading straight for the Air New Zealand check in machines. After swiping my credit card and typing my name in about three times, it started to look like I wasn't booked with Air New Zealand.

It was now 2:35pm.

I made my way to the Jetstar counter, arriving at approximately 2:37pm. The terminal was empty besides three passengers behind one counter on the far left talking to a Jetstar employee, and two other check in staff sitting idle at their posts. The closest lady to me hardly looked up as I approached her and told her I was on the 3:05pm flight to Auckland.

"You'll have to go and see that lady down there," she said, pointing at the one staff member who was already dealing with three passengers.

"I'm a little bit late," I replied, "Can't you just help me?" She shook her head, said, "Check in's closed, go see that lady down there," then went back to her important task at hand, which, at that moment, appeared to be inspecting her fingernails.

"Do you know if I can still make the flight?" I asked. Now she started to look annoyed. "I said: go. see. that. lady. down. there." Like she was talking to a five year old.

So I did. I went and waited behind the two remaining passengers who were organising something for a Wellington flight the next day. While waiting, a middle aged man from my flight came and stood behind me, having been told by the same lady the same thing.

It was now 2:40pm.

When it was my turn to speak with the lady, I explained that I was on the 3:05pm flight to Auckland and that I had arrived two minutes late but the ladies over there wouldn't check me on.

"Check in's closed," she - very helpfully - told me.

I tried to stay as calm and polite as possible. "Yes, I can see that, but we're (pointing to the guy behind me) only a couple of minutes late, the flight isn't leaving for 25 minutes and neither of us have check on luggage."

"Company policy sorry," she replied.

Still attempting politeness. "Yes I understand that, but we're just a couple of minutes late and the ladies over there could have checked us in but they refused. We've been waiting behind those other passengers. All we need is a piece of paper and we'll walk upstairs and get on the plane. It's only just started boarding."

At this point the lady who had (not) assisted me in the first place, came and told the man standing behind me that if he wasn't travelling with me, he'd have to wait behind the designated line.

"Yes, I know, but it's company policy sorry," she replied. "You can book on the next flight for 70 dollars."

Anger crept in. "But all I need to do is take a piece of paper and go upstairs! This is crazy. Can I speak with your supervisor?"

"Sure. But she's going to say the same thing," she replied. "Sheryl, can you come here for a second?"

Sheryl walked over. My heart sank. Sheryl was the lady who had refused to talk to me in the first place.

"Yes?" She asked me.

"Hi. Like I said to you before, I'm booked on the 3:05pm flight. I really need to get that flight. I was two minutes late. You saw me arrive. There's nobody else here in the terminal. Can you please let me get on the flight?" I pleaded.

"Sorry sir, company policy. We can't just let people check in after check in has closed." Then she went on to a 30 second explanation about something to do with weight restrictions and pilot's calculations.

"Okay. I understand that," I said. "But this is just a simple human error. I take responsibility for being late. My mother bought my flight but she told me that I was booked on Air New Zealand. So I went over there, couldn't find my flight, and that's why I turned up here late. Is there no chance of leniency?"

"When you book your flight, you agree to the terms and conditions. You've broken the terms and conditions. You can't just turn up late and get on the flight," she replied.

There was no getting past it. I paid my 70 dollars and accepted my fate.

When I went to check in later, the staff had changed. I made an enquiry about the law, and was told that in extreme circumstances the crew could use their own discretion and put somebody on board even if they were late. The lady also told me that passengers "frequently miss flights," due to the 30 minute prior law.

I ran into a friend of mine on the flight who, coincidentally, works at Jetstar. She told me that the 30 minute law causes huge problems and that the ground staff are "notoriously rude".

Like I said at the beginning, I understand that I was in the wrong. I arrived two minutes after their designated check in time. I get that. I don't care about having to pay an extra 70 dollars. It's annoying, but it's not the end of the world.

What I don't like is being talked to like an idiot by rude and unreasonable staff. Yes I was in the wrong, but the staff could have looked at the situation, seen that the terminal was virtually empty, used their discretion and put me (and that other guy) on the flight.

The lady I first talked to was a supervisor. My mate Sheryl. Instead of using an iota of customer services skills and just helping out a paying passenger, she refused to assist, instead, sending me down to talk to another lady who was already dealing with other passengers.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world for her to assess the situation as a minor human mistake and put me on the flight. But no. That would have been too simple. The easier option was obviously to refuse to help.

My sister had a similar experience last year. The only difference being that she was seven months pregnant at the time.

Jetstar's attitude to customer services is ridiculous. Forget the customer is always right. The ground staff are always right.

The craziest thing is that their own slogan is "We'll look after you".

Take my advice. Don't fly with them.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree! I had to talk my way onto a Jet Star flight after being told "everyone was waiting for me" Only to find at least 15 even LATER people got on after me. "We're here to hinder"

sarah said...

good to know! haven't attempted flying with them and will make a point of avoiding doing so from now on, they truly do need to raise the bar when it comes to their "customer service".

the only vague contact i've had with them is back in november, my friends and i were flying via air nz to wellington (grabaseat deals), we met a group of people at the airport who discovered their flight had just been delayed by a couple of hours thanks to some computer glitch, from memory. the culprit was, of course, jetstar

Simon Hoffmann said...

suck it up isaac, everyone knows jetstar does that sort of stuff by now..... boohooo. lol, looking foward to seeing you at i.d btw, jet start doesn't fly dunedin when I last checked so no worries there..

Gen said...

it's not just jetstar that does it, I've had friends who've not been able to get on Air NZ flighst through being a couple of minutes late.

annoyingly inflexible yes, failure of customer service, not really.

you want crappy airline customer service, try ryanair. It's liek the Cold War never ended.

Graig said...

I have flown Jetstar over ten times since they started (AKL, Wellington, CHCH, even Queenstown where they've been notorious for having problems) and not once had a problem.

Mind you, I always take carry-on only and make a point to check-in online, which means you can go straight to the gate on arrival.

As such I've never dealt with the groundstaff but have always found their cabin crew to be extremely professional & pleasent.

They are operating a budget airline and in an effort to cut costs by keeping the entire day's schedule on track (they only have 3 - 4 planes nationwide) are strictly enforcing a policy that is really up to the customer to adhere to.

In terms of the groundstaff attitude - bear in mind how many times a day they most likely encounter this situation of people trying to wrangle their way onto flights when they are clearly in the wrong, if only by 2 mins.

None of which makes you feel any better Isaac, I'm sure, as these situations are frustrating at the best of times.

producergirl said...

Your very own Airport moment...if only they filmed it here.....

Leonie said...

It may be a budget airline, but being polite doesn't cost anything.

Charlotte said...

same thing happened to me flying home to auckland from welly, like 1 minute late, peeps were boarding, had no luggage and the buggers wouldn't let me on. cue me sulkily waiting 5 hours for the next freakin' one home while i enviously watch my bro and mum fly off on the 'flash' air nz flight, haha.

however, i didn't have to pay the $70 extra, they let me off with a warning.

i'd probably fly them again though.

Mathew Sanders said...

It's unfortunate that you missed your flight, but policies are put in place to make sure that flights are not delayed and (try) to run on schedule for the sake of passengers who made it in time.

I'd not get upset at JetStar in particular, this is an experience that you'd get from pretty much any airline in the world.

When you start to travel a lot you get into a routine of traveling light, checking in online, and going straight to the gate.

I've not flown JetStar for a couple of years, but I'm looking forward to trying out their new lounge pass for trans-tasman travel — a pretty good concept for infrequent travellers (like I am now :)

J said...

This was kinda a lame way to give Jetstar bad press Isaac.

It's like saying don't shop at because they have rude staff. We all know there are plenty of them!

People will continue to fly Jetstar anyway and people will continue to buy from retail stores with rude and snobby staff.

Not being let on to board an airline if you are too lax to check in on time is a lame reason to drum up bad press for them.

Suck it up man. You're much better than this!

Luc said...

Totally agree... I have flown Jetstar before and although I made the flight, they are a rude bunch of people. They don't need to be. I think they'll be their own downfall eventually, especially here in New Zealand where the population is small and people LOVE to complain! I won't be flying with them again? Has someone started a boycott Jetstar facebook page yet?! Ha.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, I have had loads of bad experiences with "Bloody Jetstar' (as we call them. and am very intetested to hear that staff CAN infact let you board late at their discretion. Horrendous. There is no need to have to "suck up" appalling customer service & rudeness.

Anonymous said...

"Then she went on to a 30 second explanation about something to do with weight restrictions and pilot's calculations."

So.... you think you can rock up at a last-minute time (because you couldn't be bothered to check the ticket your mum bought you), disparage the airline for refusing to make you an exception to the rule and then not pay any attention to the actual reason airlines make a specific cut-off point for check-in.

Don't they know who you are? Of course they don't, you freaking baby. Leave the house 20 minutes earlier next time.

Rebeccah said...

I love the last comment - did Isaac say anything about 'who he was'? He was asking for courtesy and a bit of discretion, not a free flight!
I'm the sister who was 7 months pregnant when I had my Jetstar meltdown, to clarify: I was perfectly ontime for my flight, Jetstar wasn't. They didn't tell me why my flight was delayed for 4 hours, nor any of the other passengers. I was meant to leave Auckland for Christchurch at 8 30pm. I left at 12 30 am - yes, after midnight, arriving at 2am. Much more depressing was arriving to see the plane-load of depressed passengers waiting to fly back to Auckland - eta 4am. No good!
I will never fly Jetstar again

Anonymous said...

With any new product or service I normally try to keep an open mind and give things a go for myself.

However, I still have not been brave enough to book a flight with Jetstar.

Have paid $50 more for an identical flight on another carrier, and I am not rich at all - call me judgemental but I know why these types of airlines came to exist and how they survive. I'm not going to feed the beast.

Anonymous said...

a new site devoted to jetstar complaints:

honest man said...

Jetstar sucks a horible experiences!! Reply to this message
2 Days before the flight, they canceled my flight from Myanmar without any good reason and the flight still on time, for-sure they sell it to another passenger to get some profit, they leave me there without any replacement, just imagine how I fell stuck 2-3 more days in foreign place, they refund my credit card alright but without $200 voucher as they self promise, without my agreement....they just canceled my flight. Dear readers please advise How should I do for this injustice act, it's been nightmare experiences for me for the first time, I travel a lot but I never have this kind of horrible experiences. Jet star sucks!

Lion_mane7 said...

totally agree. the travel industry is a hardcore scene. make sure you read all t and c and make sure you are prepared because if you miss checkin you aint gettin through buddy. policies are policies!!! make sure you know what airline your travelling with if you did you would be on that flight no problemo!!

Wayne said...

We will never ever fly Jet Star again.
When we made our reservation Auckland - Queenstown return ( full fare paying customers) we filled out the box exempting extra charges for taking skis with us. Pretty normal considering we just flew Switzerland to Auckland with ski gear and were not charged.
When we arrived at the check in counter the staff said they had no record that we had been exempted from the extra charges.
Of course they charged us $140.00,which we had to pay or we would not have been allowed on the aircraft.
I must add the counter staff at Auckland Airport were a total disgrace in their behaviour towards us.
A few days ago our credit card bill arrived and the Jet Star charge was on there. Guess What ! they charged us in Australian dollars.This was on a domestic flight booked in NZ and paid in NZ.
We call Jet Star gangsters. We will ensure they pay dearly for their cheating.
We will never fly Jet Star and we will discourage any one we speak with from flying with these gangsters.

I shudder to think what this airline is doing to the NZ name abroad.