Ed and I just got back from Loreto (Mexico) and boy did Westjet ever let us down this time. By "Ed" I mean "Legendary Ed". At the time of this writing, he's almost 94. He's also well over 6' tall. He always goes for bigger seats on aircraft simply so he can fit in the seat. For our trip to Loreto, we got the "Plus" seats, which I've never done before, but that's where the leg room is. Having a "Plus" seat is pretty nice - I enjoyed having one on the way to Loreto.
When our time in Loreto was nearly completed, I got the usual "check in online" e-mail from Westjet a day before our flight. I didn't use the online check-in because I didn't have the same access to technology (including 3G roaming) that I have at home and was concerned that I wouldn't be able to access our boarding cards at the airport. So, we decided to check in the old-fashioned way: at the check-in desk talking to a person.
At check-in, the ticket guy clearly knew that we had Plus seats because he didn't charge us for our checked bags. He neglected, however, to warn us that our seat assignments were not for Plus seats. (FAIL: Should have warned us that our seats had been given away... or, rather, sold to another customer).
After check-in, we looked at our tickets and the seat assignments looked wrong - 6B and 19B. Those didn't look like Plus seats to us, but since we hadn't been informed by the ticket agent, nor charged for checked bags, I wasn't particularly worried. I told Ed that I'd inquire when we got through security and to the gate.
At the gate area, I went to speak with the lady at our gate. She looked up our reservation and told me she couldn't help me because our reservation was not for Plus seats. (FAIL: Lied to me about this). I produced my printed confirmation that we did, in fact, have Plus seats at which point she summoned her supervisor.
The supervisor shrugged and said we would have to complain when we get to Calgary. I said that wasn't good enough because my friend is very tall and very old. I went to get Ed as "backup" and to show them that making him sit in a cattle car was not acceptable. Incidentally, Ed was not looking like his usual robust self today. He'd taken a spill hiking on Coronado Island and half of his face was a big purple bruise, and he was walking with a cane because of a newly acquired "trick knee". The supervisor shrugged again and told us to tell the flight attendant and they would figure it out. (FAIL: Supervisor should at least say sorry for the situation and be more helpful about finding a resolution).
When we got on the plane, I spoke with Flight Attendant Michelle. I told her that we had been bumped out of our Plus seats for some reason and no one in the terminal would help me - they were making her deal with it. Her first reaction was that we should go stand at the very back of the plane while everyone else boards and then she'd deal with us. (FAIL: Really??). When I asked her why she said because she didn't know where anyone else was seated at that time and she needed to get the plane boarded. She then told us to take our assigned seats (which she wrote down) and she would come talk to us when everyone was boarded. I told her that Ed won't fit in a normal seat and she just said she had no other choice. That's what we needed to do until everyone else was boarded.
I left Ed at 6B and went back to 19B. I was, oddly, seated between a couple, and, oddly, they declined when I offered to let them sit together, so I had one on either side. They listened, sympathetically, while I ranted for a few minutes and then engaged me in conversation about Loreto, which was very helpful to calm me down.
When it looked like everyone was on board, I could see that Ed was still in 6B, so I walked up to the front of the plane. When I reached the row where Ed was sitting, I encountered another Flight Attendant. I asked her if anything had been done about moving him. She said "I don't know anything about that. Did you talk to someone?" I indicated Michelle. She said "Go talk to her then" and rudely pushed past me in the aisle. (FAIL: I'm already being treated like a difficult customer... for what??)
I approached Michelle and she said that the flight was full and there was nothing she could do. We would just have to complain when we reach Calgary. I said "Look at him! He doesn't fit in the seat! We paid for Plus seats so he'd have leg room." Michelle said "Well, all these other people paid for Plus seats too." I said "Can we ask someone if they'd trade?" Michelle talks to one lady who immediately agrees to switch with Ed. I thanked Michelle and the lady. (FAIL: She clearly didn't even TRY to do anything about it until I insisted, and wouldn't have even bothered trying if I hadn't insisted). I asked if the seat he was being moved to was bigger. Michelle turned and started walking away, flipped her hands in the air and said, curtly, "That's the biggest you get!" (FAIL: Really? Treat me like I'm being a difficult customer when all I'm doing is trying to get my long-legged friend into the seat that he paid for IN NOVEMBER!?)
I returned to 19B and the nice couple from Cochrane. They had to listen to me rant again for a minute about the way Michelle handled the situation, and the way she treated me.
Now, over-selling a flight I can actually understand. There is ALWAYS attrition. When I post an outdoor event I always exceed my maximum as well, and thanks to attrition, I almost never have more than my maximum come out. But what I don't understand is, if you're going to over-sell your flight, why over-sell the PLUS seats? If you over-sold cattle-car seats and had to "bump" people to Plus seats, they'd be thrilled about it. People being bumped from Plus seats to cattle-car seats... not so much.
Through the whole experience, not once did anyone say:
- We're sorry this happened
- We take responsibility for this happening
- We will try to resolve this
They treated us as an inconvenience at best, and a difficult customer at worst.
I called Westjet customer service and I spoke with a helpful lady named Leslie. One of the first things she said was that she was sorry this happened to us. She was the FIRST person through everything to indicate that she/Westjet was sorry. She said she could clearly see that we had a Plus reservation and she didn't know why we weren't given our seats.
After several minutes of looking into it, she could find no reason why our seats were given to other customers. She said the only reason would be if someone needed them for a medical reason, which was not the case. She indicated that perhaps the system had somehow given up our seats to another customer checking in online as an "upgrade", although that shouldn't happen because Westjet doesn't over-sell their Plus seats. I said that maybe that's something their IT department should look into.
She offered me compensation for the experience, starting with $200/ea back to me and Ed. We could take it as cash back (to my credit card) or as a flight bank. I said we'd take the money back on my credit card because I was not satisfied with the resolution and I didn't know if I'd fly with them again. She asked if there was more she could do to make me happier and offered me $300/ea, which I accepted. I'm not sure if I'm happy about that at all. I don't feel compensated for what happened; I feel appeased.